“Newsjacking” is a colourful American PR term that means hijacking a breaking news story and inserting your own angle. In the Australian context, many try and few succeed and here are the reasons:
Despite what they might tell you, most Australian PR consultancies aren’t very nimble or responsive. Awakening at dawn and diving into the media to find out what news is breaking isn’t second nature unless you’ve worked as a political press secretary or journalist.
Once a rival story is running in the mass media, it’s almost certainly too late to seize the moment unless you jump ahead of the agenda and define where the issue’s going.
Even at the breaking stage, your story has to be more than good to change the news agenda. It must be newer, more unusual or a bigger game-changer than what’s already out there. That’s a judgement call based on experience and some gut feel.
If a client thinks their angle is the greatest story since 9-11 and it’s not, you need to have an honest relationship that lets you tell them it’s not. The same applies if buying into an issue isn’t a good idea.
Your PR company needs to know its way around the media. It’s no good firing out an email to an over-crowded or unattended in-box. Talking to someone senior on the newsdesk is imperative.
Newsrooms are chaotic places. A phone will ring out or be answered by a reporter’s neighbour who has no idea where their colleague is. That’s no time to be passive – it’s time to go up the line or find a roundsperson on their mobile.
Social media can be a useful tool here but it's no good tweeting if no-one's following.
Lastly, the client needs to be prepared. Can they talk to the angle if journalists pick up on the angle and come calling? If they’re part of a large local company or multinational do they have authority to act without sign-off from someone else? Pre-agreed messages make all the difference.
It’s not as easy as inventing a colourful term.
Picture credit: Beyond PR blog