By: Guest | December 26, 2011 | 

Today’s guest post is written by David Meerman Scott.

I’ve been in and around the real-time news business my entire career, both on the news creation side (working for Knight-Ridder and other publishers) and the PR side of the house.

The transformation I see in the news business right now opens the best opportunity ever for smart marketers to bypass all the spin B.S. and reach journalists when they are looking for what you have to offer.

Speaking of spin, because I write for a bunch of publications I get several hundred pitches a week.

Most suck.


Because people want to tell me about their stuff when it is convenient for them. The fact that so few people understand how to reach reporters when they need the information is why I love Newsjacking.

The real-time web

As journalists scramble to cover breaking news, the basic facts—who/what/when/where—are often fairly easy to find, either on a corporate website or in competitors’ copy. That’s what goes in the first paragraph of any news story.

The challenge for reporters is to get the “why” and scope out the details. If you are clever enough to react to breaking news very quickly, providing credible content in a blog post, tweet, or media alert that features the keyword of the moment, you may be rewarded with a bonanza of media attention.

If there is one organization we all count on for a quick reaction, it’s the fire department. So it is encouraging to find that the London Fire Brigade (LFB) is able to newsjack at lightning speed.

Sir Richard Branson was hosting actress Kate Winslet and 20 other guests at his private Necker Island retreat in the British Virgin Islands on August 22, 2011, when lightning struck the wooden building and set it ablaze. Winslet helped rescue Branson’s 90-year-old mother from the inferno.

News of the rescue, along with photos of the dramatic fire, quickly became the lead story in media worldwide. But the story was thin, few outlets had an original angle on it, and no one had reporters in the British Virgin Islands. For editors in the ferociously competitive UK media, situations like this are hideously stressful. So imagine their collective relief when the local fire brigade showed up to the rescue.

Within hours of the initial reports on the fire and Winslet’s role in the rescue, the LFB offered Winslet the chance to train with firefighters at its training center. The offer was made in a story written by the LFB and posted on its website.


This clever newsjack got the LFB huge attention, as the offer to Winslet was featured by news outlets worldwide.

What the LFB did—quickly posting the Winslet offer on their site and alerting reporters—took no more than a few hours and probably cost nothing. But the resulting media exposure was worth millions. It was a gambit that succeeded because the timing and the message were perfect.

Anyone familiar with how corporate PR spending effectiveness is measured by frequency of mentions in the media will grasp the implications. With one blog post, I’d guess LFB likely snagged more media mentions than their entire PR budget managed to achieve in the entire preceding year. And apart from the somebody’s salary, it didn’t cost a dime.

You can newsjack, too.

But you’ve got to follow the new rules of speed. The traditional PR model—sticking closely to a preset script and campaign timeline doesn’t work when a story breaks.

Newsjacking is powerful, but only when executed in real time. It is about taking advantage of opportunities that pop up for a fleeting moment, then disappear. In that instant, if you are clever enough to add a new dimension to the story in real time, the news media will write about you. Newsjacking favors quick, observant, and skilled communicators. Newsjacking may be relatively new, but it is here to stay because it works and it can generate huge returns on investment.

David Meerman Scott’s newest book “Newsjacking” was released in November 2011 as an ebook only on Kindle, iPad, Nook, Sony, and many other readers. His classic “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” opened people’s eyes to the new realities of marketing and public relations on the Web and has sold more than a quarter of a million copies in more than 25 languages from Bulgarian to Vietnamese. Scott’s popular blog and hundreds of speaking engagements around the world give him a singular perspective on how businesses are implementing new strategies to reach buyers. His other international bestsellers include “Real-Time Marketing & PR,” “World Wide Rave” and “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead” and they are available on his website.

  • Hi David

    Never thought I’d find a post that mentioned both the “London Fire Brigade (LFB)” and “Kate Winslet.” LOL

    Not come across “Newsjacking” before so thanks for the eplanation.

  • Interesting concept. I am sure many Bloggers are not taking advantage of newsjacking in their own locations, which they should. But apart from the temporary spike in the traffic (which is no doubt advantageous), is there any long term gain due to this? Would anyone want to visit LFB again? Perhaps we could cover breaking news in the domain in which our blogs are…

    • davidmeermanscott

      @Raj-PB Don’t forget that something like this generates many inbound links which help with Search Engine Optimization. In addition, whenever anyone is searching on the past news event, LFB comes up.

  • ginidietrich

    Super excited about your book, David! Thanks for the guest post on something EVERY PR pro should add to their arsenal.

    • davidmeermanscott

      @ginidietrich Hope you enjoy it. Let me know about your newsjacking successes.

  • I’m not really from the PR industry, I just hang out, because, well, they let me. But, I loved your article and I may give your book a read, as I bet the stories are really interesting.

    I used to work for GEICO, where a 15 minute call, could save you 15% on your auto insurance, and I loved it. As an analyst in the marketing department, I got to hear all sorts of cool stories. My favorite was when the Senior VP negotiated a deal to get a GEICO patch on the sleeve of an unknown tennis player who had qualified for Wimbledon. It was a long shot, but if he won twice, he would meet Andre Agassi, and it would be televised. To buy a patch on Mr. Agassi’s sleeve would have been over 100K, but the unknown was less than 1% of that. It worked, they guy played Agassi, took it to 5 sets, was on TV for something like 4 hours, and then did the unthinkable…he won! It led off all the sports shows. A tiny investment found lots of air time and exposure. Lucky, yes, but despite their hundreds of millions of dollars they spend on advertising, GEICO still believes in getting the good deal.

    Now, to figure out how I can highjack some news to promote my book, Henry Wood Detective Agency, available on Kindle, Nook, and in Print. Oh wait, I just did it! That wasn’t hard at all.

    Happy New Year!

    • davidmeermanscott

      @ExtremelyAvg I love stories like that.

  • David, I really like this concept and look forward to checking out the book. I wonder is there a way to semi-prepare for newsjacking?

    Obviously, specifics can’t be prepared for, but what about news items within your industry that tend to reoccur? For instance, if you are in politics you know that eventually there will be a story of voter fraud somewhere — what are your thoughts on prepping the newsjack in advance for a few of the most common reoccurring items in your sphere and then tailoring to the specifics when it occurs?

    • davidmeermanscott

      @adamtoporek Yes. You can prepare for that sort of news. But frequently the most successful newsjacks are the ones that are completely unexpected BUT only if you are very quick.

  • jonbuscall

    @cuferg thanks for the tweet out. Very best wishes all the way from Sweden

  • AbbieF

    Just downloaded the book — look forward to reading it. We talk alot about this with our staff and clients…we need to pay attention to the news around us. Not only to determine if we can add additional insight, but equally as important to know when not to pitch.

  • ddesk

    Interesting post, David. Thanks. I just downloaded your book.
    I guess newsjacking is all about listening in real time, react and contribute with your experiences and knowledge, right a way. Would you say PR practitioners should do this full time, or how much of their time should they spend on monitoring vs start the conversation by themselves, with their own stuff and thoughts?

  • ddesk

    I wrote this post recently, and I guess newsjacking is the other side of crowd sourcing?

  • Love that story and just downloaded your book. I remember reading “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and thinking I had finally found a reasonable and sound approach to what I love to do. Can’t wait to read your latest!

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