How Newsjacking is creating a new buzz in online marketing

This post is a case study on a Newsjacking from Lyndon Antcliff. Lyndon spoke at this year’s LinkLove London and is a specialist in web content that creates buzz in the form of links, social signals and newspaper mentions. He runs a Newsjacking service helping PR professionals and content creators craft potential viral content. He blogs here, tweets here and is also known to be found in the donut aisle of Tesco in Truro.


This is a story of how I managed to get a small Scottish music shop thousands of pounds worth of free advertising with a simple news hook and a well crafted story.

Most of you know me as a linkbaiter, something I have been doing for over five years now. Well, the skill set of the linbkaiter can also be used in a wider publicity context. Newsjacking – a term you may or may not be familiar with – enables the potential to get huge publicity by cleverly positioning a narrative that benefits a business that is looking to promote itself online.

Each day, I scan the news looking for potential stories to create newsjacking campaigns from. Some are for my clients and the rest go into my alert service, which is a regular email that highlights potential stories and suggests ideas, headlines, etc. As I was putting together my regular newsjacking alerts that I send out over email for my clients, I noticed a particularly interesting news story about a UKIP MEP who said that all foreign aid to "Bongo Bongo Land" must stop.

I then heard the interview on the Today programme on Radio 4 with the MEP who, not only was unrepentant of his remarks but, went on to argue that most people would agree with him. He was quite a character who did not fit the traditional model of the current style of politician and the media loved it.

It was at that point I knew the story had legs and was going to run over the whole day's news cycle and possibly the next. I knew that if a pair of bongos was sent to the UKIP MEP that would make a very interesting and engaging story.

The perfect client for this would have been a drum brand such as Pearl, Tama, Yamaha, etc. However, I knew that I was not going to be able to quickly pitch to a brand like this and run a story. The problem was I did not have a suitable client who was available for such a quick campaign, and if the campaign was to work it would have to be initiated within hours. Fortunately I have a substantial Twitter following who are well aware of what I do and my ability, and so I asked my followers if anyone knew of someone in the music niche who wanted to play.

I was quickly introduced to a guy who runs the Rainbow Music shop in Dundee, Stefan Pogrorzelec. I had a discussion with him on his mobile whilst he was heading to work and, fortunately, he quickly grasped the concept of what I was doing and gave me the go ahead. I was able to tell him what he needed to do and how much it would cost him (which is exactly what small business people need to know). I had agreed to waive my fee and conduct the campaign gratis.

I requested they get a pair of bongos, package them up and send them to the UKIP MEP but – before they do so – to take a photo and send this to me to check. After a few photo attempts, we got the right one and I wrote up their press release and a letter to the UKIP MEP – adding that UKIP should consider getting a float at the Notting Hill Carnival to play the bongos on them. With that done, it was a simple case of contacting a few media outlets to inform them of the story.

I have a very good network of people who helped me to get the word out and the story was mentioned in STV.tvGuido Fawkes blogMetro, plus a few others. Also the local paper visited the shop to take more pictures and run a story. The campaign was a great success and resulted in thousands of pounds of free publicity for the shop.

There were a few problems though; because this wasn't a regular client of mine they had no blog set up to quickly produce content and we were against the clock. A story like this will tend to change direction based on news points. We wanted to be that news point. Because we have rolling news and a hungry blogosphere, the beast needs feeding and once the initial story is launched there is a desire to consume more of it. By offering a further narrative of "bongos to the Bongo Bongo Land guy", I knew we would capture the imagination of people and feed the need for further information.

We also had an eager group of friends promoting the story, and one news outlet who showed interest in the story got multiple requests and put it in the spam section. It's very important that the media outreach be tightly controlled and contacts not abused.

The reason for success is simple – it was the right hook, for the right story, at the right time. What is currently happening in the news cycle at that time is key. But it's also important to note that local (as well as national and international) media can give very useful coverage to its local market, particularly if the shop is competing online.

Social media and blogging have created a news media beast that requires constant feeding. For those who understand the Web 2.0 landscape, how news works and the power of the "story", there are massive opportunities to use this very specific marketing tool. Previously this kind of thing has been the domain of the PR professional, but now anyone who understands how to navigate the aspects of a newsjacking can conceive and implement such a campaign. Yet, the small business owner may not have the time, skill set or knowledge of who to contact and how, to be able to implement this in an optimal manner.

A newsjacking expert would also have to convince any client that such a strategy is the right way to go, as there is always the chance that it will not work. This kind of marketing is speculative and does not deliver the assurances that an Adwords or a Facebook adverts campaign would bring. But the results when it does work are large enough to pay for any attempts that do not work.

The type of client who wants to initiate this as part of their strategy must have established trust with their agency. Content must quickly be created and a blog or CMS must be available for the publishing of content that supports the story. However, the background of this narrative could easily be described as controversial. After all, we are dealing with the issue of possible racism, a subject that most people hold strong views about. Considering it is not that difficult to be misinterpreted over such issues, a brand must tread very carefully indeed.

The aim of the newsjacking was to focus on positive aspects by giving a gift that has implied connotations, leaving it to the reader to make their own decision regarding the comment that was made by the UKIP MEP. A newsjacking should encourage conversation rather than tell people what to think. Hopefully it raised the tone of the debate and gave everyone a smile, including the MEP in question, Mr. Godfrey Bloom.

In conclusion, newsjacking is not for everyone. It is very difficult for most to acquire the various skill sets needed to be able to consistently run campaigns that get results. Plus you need to be able to negate the flops and learn from them. However, for those with the ability to craft a story and implement an effective campaign, newsjacking is an inexpensive and powerful way to communicate your message.

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