Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the SuperbowlBy Lindsay Bell

I hate newsjacking.

Like, viscerally hate it.

I remember saying, upon hearing the news of the tragic events in Paris, “If I see one post that even bears a whiff of What Charlie Hebdo Taught Me About X I will gouge my eyeballs out with a melon baller.”

Thankfully, that didn’t happen—not that I’m aware of, anyway. 

And I’m still sighted’ish.

But it never fails, whether a high profile death, a world tragedy, the Oscars, a sporting event, or a political firestorm, you usually have about two seconds before it’s time to get the melon baller out of the cutlery drawer and commence gouging.

Ok, I should clarify: I hate “if it bleeds it leads” style newsjacking. Because, really? What could the deaths of innocent people or the downing of an aircraft REALLY teach you about PR/marketing/social media? NOTHING. That’s what.

That said, there are times, when it’s done correctly, that newsjacking can be cheeky and fun. Think pop culture or sporting events.

Pop Culture Newsjacking: Good and Bad

Brands nowadays are experts at this fun-style newsjacking. We’re probably all a bit tired of the Oreo cookie/Super Bowl blackout epic win from 2013, but we’re also still referencing it because EPIC!

I bet most people still think Oreo when they hear any chatter about that infamous blackout, and that’s some powerful brand staying power.

Content Marketing Institute wrote about a series of brands who nailed the “poke a bit of fun at pop culture” style of newsjacking, including this Tweet, from DiGiorno Pizza.

The addition of SMH (shake my head) in reference to a film set in 1930s Austria adds an extra chuckle to this one.

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

But don’t think pop culture is a free-for-all; every brand’s online playground.

You still need to have some strategy behind what you’re posting, and also a clear understanding of context and potential sensitivities, cultural, racial, and otherwise.

Best Buy got its knuckles rapped for tweeting a self-promotional post referencing the podcast that took the country by storm: Serial. Hit show, right? Best Buy even features in the story arc!

What could be better, eh brands? Except Serial was about a real life murder from 1998, and a real life murderer making a phone call allegedly from a real life payphone in a Best Buy parking lot.

Perhaps their attempt at newsjacking Serial’s popularity by tweeting, “We have everything you need. Unless you need a pay phone. #Serial.” required a little more thought.

And then we have sensitive, sombre holidays, such as Memorial Day, or the just celebrated Martin Luther King Day.

Which brings us to football. Wait. What? Yes, football.

Are You Ready for Some Football?

As AdWeek reported, the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks took all the air out of their nail biting win over Green Bay with one Tweet: “We shall overcome #MLKDay”

Oh, and they included this picture as well, in case you didn’t quite get the reference.

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

I did like this response though. 

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

Ok, let’s end on a happy note. Let’s go back to newsjacking done right, with good natured humor, and no one’s feelings getting hurt. Happy football.

If you’ve been following along, you might have noticed I mentioned that the Seahawks “took all the air out” of their trouncing of the Packers.

That’s riiiight! #DeflateGate!! Am I the only one who thinks this is the best hashtag ever!!??

#DeflateGate, in a nutshell, refers to how the New England Patriots won the second Super Bowl spot over the Indianapolis Colts.

But, during the game, Indianapolis Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass and wound up holding an under-inflated pigskin.

After the NFL investigated, it was found that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC championship game were under inflated.

Cue the Internet!! Oh, the memes. Simply too many to mention or show here. And brands got on board.

Michelin, MoPar, and Krispy Kreme Donuts were some of them.

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

Newsjacking: Tread Lightly

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

Even the #BabyBombers, the Staten Island Yankees baseball team weighed in (see what I did there?).

Newsjacking: The Good, the Bad, and the Superbowl

Because let’s face it, poking a bit of fun at a bunch of men in shoulder pads who chase a ball around, get paid scads of money to do so, and who might have been caught cheating is kind of fun.

No one was hurt (except for maybe Tom Brady’s ego). No one died. No one’s being disrespectful or distasteful. All things you must consider before partaking in any newsjacking of your own.

Don’t compare tragedy to something inconsequential and meaningless (in the grand scheme of things).

Don’t piggyback on holidays or events if they have absolutely nothing to do with your brand, or if there’s the remotest chance you might be crossing any line.

But please do, if you find your own #DeflateGate, jump on board and have some fun!

It’s Super Bowl Sunday this weekend! Who are you rooting for? The Ball Deflators? Or the MLK Coat-Tail Riders??

photo credit: Shutterstock

Lindsay Bell

Lindsay Bell is the content director at V3 Marketing, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.

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