Alison Hill

Tips for Using Newsjacking During the Showbiz Awards Season

By: Alison Hill | February 5, 2018 | 
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newsjackingIt is hard to believe, but we are already heading toward the final walk down the red carpet for the showbiz awards season—which means you need to get your newsjacking strategy in place ASAP!

Those of us who have been in the PR game awhile know this isn’t something new.

At CurrentPR, we have been finding “news hooks” and “piggybacking” since we opened our doors in 1993.

The difference today is social media, which makes it possible to newsjack a story in real time.

What is Newsjacking?

Author David Meerman Scott coined the term “newsjacking” a few years ago referring to:

The process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.

I’m quite surprised not to have seen more clever newsjacking during the showbiz awards season so far.

Often, the brands with the most creative newsjacks are those with no obvious connection to awards shows at all—such as these stunts from a few years back.

I mean, what do Snickers candy bars or U.S. Cellular devices have to do with Hollywood glamour?

While their tweets are quick and original, they also seem kind of forced and superficial to us.

In contrast, these equally humorous examples from Oscar Mayer bacon and Charmin toilet paper bring a truly relatable brand connection to awards news.

Similar to Oscar Mayer and Charmin, we always take the more organic approach in our client campaigns.

How to Use Newsjacking to Promote Your Brand

For instance, in 2008 and 2016, we newsjacked the U.S. Presidential elections with our “Peanuts Rocks the Vote” programs.

In a nutshell, we promoted a Peanuts-branded mock election website where Americans could vote for a Peanuts character for president.

And, they could register to vote in the real election at the same time.

To draw national attention and increase traffic to the site, we recruited dozens of celebrities such as Alec Baldwin, George Lopez, and James Maslow, to tape mock YouTube PSAs.

Now, you might think our Peanuts campaigns are just as obscure as the Snickers and U.S. Cellular campaigns.

But the truth is, they are based on the deep history of Peanuts and politics.

You see, Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz often employed his distinct form of newsjacking in his highly popular daily comic strip.

In particular, he would insert his characters into the topical conversations of the day.

And many times, those conversations revolved around the latest political news.

Given our penchant for meatier newsjacking strategies, we look forward to critiquing any attention-getting brand plays for the remainder of the awards season.

Also, we’d like to offer up our ideas in this area.

Below you will find our latest thoughts, specifically related to the Oscars, where traditionally most of the best awards newsjacking action takes place.

However, the same rules apply for any of the forthcoming awards shows, such as the Independent Spirit Awards on March 3, and other high-profile events such as the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, currently airing on NBC through February 25.

Newsjacking Below the Line

It’s true most big stories during awards season revolve around actors (and others considered “above the line” talent).

But below the line pros such as costumers, editors, cinematographers, and stylists offer other unique opportunities for brands to join the coveted chatter.

For example, many entertainment buffs enjoy learning about costume making, especially for historical drama and fantasy films.

So, if your brand sells movie-inspired costumes, why not tweet a shout-out to this year’s Oscar-winning costumer?

You don’t even need to stock costumes they won an award for—although I’d love to rock a Phantom Thread knock-off this Halloween.

Additional ideas:

  • Beauty and hair product brands + makeup and hairstyling. (Brands such as Olay have newsjacked the Oscars before. Proceed with caution here; Twitter blew-up last year—not in a good way—when Suicide Squad won.)
  • Camera manufacturers + cinematography
  • House paint, furniture, or interior design companies + production design

Newsjacking the Hometown Advantage

It’s the oldest strategy in the PR playbook.

Who hasn’t pitched a client’s brand to the local daily newspaper in the town where they are headquartered?

If you are the head of communications for Choose Chicago, you should strategize creative ways to acknowledge native Chicagoan Frances McDormand during this awards season.

Because, if you’ve been keeping track, she recently won both Golden Globe and SAG Awards.

According to Gold Derby, she is the front-runner for “Actress in a Leading Role” Oscar race this year for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

In a similar vein, we want to applaud Esper Studio for its tweets congratulating alumnus Sam Rockwell on his Golden Globe and SAG awards for his role in Three Billboards.

Every college out there with an Oscar-nominated alumnus this year should also follow suit.

And if your business is travel, you might take into consideration:

  • Dunkirk, France (Dunkirk)
  • Sacramento, California (Lady Bird)
  • Washington, D.C. (The Post)
  • Lombardy, Italy (Call Me By Your Name)

Newsjacking Service with a Smile

As an entertainment PR professional, an article about the 2018 showbiz awards season is a no-brainer.

This same situation exists for all kinds of service professionals:

  • Speechwriters: Tweet or write an article about your favorite speeches from the show. While the Toastmasters Association has already done this quite well, there’s always room for another perspective.
  • Still photographers: Inspire fame-seekers to hire you by uploading appealing shots to your Instagram page. Showcase the best celebrity poses on the red carpet with details on how you can do the same for them.
  • High-end gyms: Tweet your brand’s opinion on which actresses had the best-sculpted arms on the red carpet. Include a teaser saying you know how they did it.

On a More Serious Note

In a 2016 post on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog, Kerri Karvetski of Company K Media provided some tasteful Oscar newsjacking ideas for non-profits that year.

In general, charities must be extremely careful in their use of newsjacking because they never want to appear exploitative.

If you represent a philanthropic organization, we suggest you carefully dissect Karvetski’s piece.

Use the same sensitive methodology for awards season.

To get you started, here are some initial thoughts:

  • Organizations which aid “motel families” (Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project)
  • Support groups for parents of violent crime victims (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Any nominated celebrity who is an ambassador or supporter of your particular cause

As Charmin and Oscar Mayer have shown, any brand can use newsjacking in a meaningful way to jump on the awards season bandwagon.

But do not skimp on paying your graphic artists and social media writers! You need the best talent you can get.

Have you used newsjacking? If so, what strategy worked for your organization?

About Alison Hill


As founder of CurrentPR, Alison Hill turns creators into media stars, executives into thought-leaders, and brands into trendsetters. Prior to launching the agency, she held numerous executive PR positions for Turner Broadcasting, Mattel Electronics and Burson-Marsteller.

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