The Right and Wrong Way to Use Newsjacking

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Following events like the “Jaws” theme circling the Oscars and the Boston Marathon bombing, the term newsjacking has been getting a lot of attention. The idea behind the term is that individuals (and brands) take an event in the news to either promote their products in particular or their brands in general. Of course, as with anything on social media, there is a right and wrong way to handle it. Before you use a newsworthy event to further your brand, keep the following tips in mind.

Discuss your idea with the team before taking action.

Tweeting about an event in real-time can be extremely successful or incredibly disastrous — that’s why it shouldn’t be taken on by just one person deciding to do it on the spur of the moment. If an opportunity appears and you think that your brand could benefit from appropriating it, have a definite idea of what you want to do and then discuss it with your team. If something goes awry, the entire team will be held responsible, so take the time to get everyone’s approval first. If you can get the whole team involved, you’ll probably be able to respond in an even better, more artistic way. Special K got their whole team involved for the following tweet in response to the Oscars, and it shows.

Don’t use a tragic occurrence as an opportunity to plug your brand, even if it seems harmless.

Epicurious learned this the hard way just a couple weeks ago. As part of a brief series of tweets dealing with the Boston Marathon attack, the food site paired heartfelt wishes for the victims with recipes. There certainly wasn’t anything malicious about the tweets, but they were definitely misguided and in poor taste (like many brands who have made similar mistakes before them). The best way to prevent a similar misstep is to avoid this kind of post altogether. If appropriate, express your sympathy and leave it at that.

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Timeliness is important, but so is tact.

Of course, in newsjacking time is of the essence. Although it’s important to be timely, you need to make sure that it’s tactful and in good taste. When the news broke that a line of lululemon yoga pants was being recalled because of issues with, ahem, transparency, competitor brand Ellie used it as a chance to push their own products. It’s important to note, though, that they didn’t call out lululemon specifically. There weren’t any nasty tweets to be seen, only tweets that tactfully took advantage of their competitor’s error. If you can’t respond to the situation in good taste, then don’t do it at all.

Create a plan of action that will allow you to (in the future) react to news quickly.

After Oreo scored a touchdown with its Super Bowl blackout tweet, it was revealed that they were able to do so because they had a plan of action in place. You probably have a strategy in place for how to respond to specific types of questions that might come through your social channels. Is there a way that you can establish a similar strategy for responding to news that might affect your brand? See if you can create a list, even if it’s a short one. If Epicurious had had a plan of action in place for responding to tragic events, they might not have made such a mistake and then struggled to recover from it.

Still looking for inspiration? See how these brands won the night with their Super Bowl-related tweets. Or, learn how to handle a social media gaffe the right way.