Has your B2B PR agency dangled the “Newsjacking” carrot in front of you yet? “We can get two of these a month,” they say as they ratchet up their hourly fees for chargeable items.

You can hear it now… there’s a story out there in the nationals about 5G causing problems, there’s a volcano that has erupted and stopped planes flying, it’s destroyed internet connection… we can hijack it and get you top level coverage… They talk the talk, take the fees, but national newsjacking stories very rarely walk the walk in the world of B2B.

There is real value for B2B companies in newsjacking, but it comes in a very different form from what most PR execs use as their role model of B2C newsjacking.

The downside of newsjacking

Newsjacking can enter more choppy waters because news stories that gain huge momentum are almost always negative, and you have to be on the right side of it. Take the example where Gillette did a controversial newsjacking of the #MeToo movement to update their “best a man can get” tagline, to extremely mixed reviews. Same goes with the BLM movement with businesses selling everything from ice creams to burgers outbidding to score points. Remember social media follows news like a hawk ready to blast its foghorn of anger to the world if you get it wrong.

First point to note is that all these examples are B2C. So, let’s turn our attention to see whether the same techniques can be used to an advantage in the B2B world.

Newsjacking as part of a proactive B2B marketing strategy

Newsjacking is often sold as being proactive, but by its very nature, is essentially reactive. But B2B PR done best, is proactive, taking key business messages out to the media in the shape of thought leadership pieces, comments/quotable quotes, news and customer stories that align with long-running trends in the news with a company’s corporate messages. IBA always build our client campaigns around key themes and business issues.

For B2B Newsjacking read Trendjacking

Then look for opportunities, not necessarily in the shape of individual news items which are usually negative, but in the shape of “trendjacking” – where journalists are following current industry issues in order to be helpful to their audience. These include sustainability issues, new forms of energy and power, new models of manufacturing and construction – the list goes on.

First rule – make sure your news and trendjacking opportunities support your key business messaging and you’re not just crowbarring it in.

The value is there

Most recently COP26 provided a huge environmental platform for companies large and small to generate a plethora of activity around the big issue of sustainability. Did you have something to add? Then use COP26 as the peg to hang your story on.

By associating yourself with a positive running story you will introduce yourself to new audiences, improve your brand recognition and if you use social effectively, drive new people to your website.

Identify the NO-GO areas

Second rule not all opportunities are smart to associate with. There are some definite no-go areas. For example, it’s best to tread carefully before posting about politics, natural disasters, deaths or controversial events.

Be careful not to cross the political line. You may have something positive to say to business about legislation brought in by Trump or Biden, you may believe Brexit is a key business benefit or a disaster for manufacturing companies, you may believe WFH is the way forward, and you may have a solution to develop COVID passports. But areas like these are a minefield and problematic for newsjacking.

Showing partisanship can guarantee you will lose as many supporters as you gain. That one hot prospect that was about to sign believed Trump was the future, so best to go down a notch. Instead explain how customers or prospects can deal with the legislative issues or the positive benefits for end-customers of the new developments.

Choose your stories to Newsjack or Trendjack carefully – think positive and don’t waste your and your company executive’s time ambulance chasing

You’re never going to change a journalist’s storyline. If it starts negative as most big media news stories do, it will continue to be negative, and nothing you say to add a positive spin that your solution would have changed the outcome of the negative story will change a journalist’s mind.

If you’re only going to get your top exec a mention in a news item that a journo is using to support his gripe about problems in a particular area – for example an acute shortage of parts in the auto industry – then you’re wasting your time. A big national outlet might be a top target, but the journalist is following a negative supply chain story and will only look for comments that support the story. They will ignore the carefully prepared arguments about how your solution can solve the problem and only take the most controversial soundbites.

Do you need to be fast?

Third rule – News stories have a shelf life – usually around a week so if you’re national newsjacking a volcano story or a power outage, you will need fast fingers on your story and your approval processes. Trendjacking has a longer shelf life than newsjacking. It’s safer. It brings the same brand awareness to new audiences. And the trend often morphs into another trend. For example, if you look at the supply chain shortages that started towards the end of 2021, the story has now morphed into human capital shortages – and another trendjacking media opportunity for you.

And finally, try Picture jacking

A footnote to keep you thinking.

Sometimes a particular picture dominates the media – it used to be helicopters and oil rigs, now it’s plastic bottles and forest fires. Pictures go in trends and the media often like stories that enable them to follow the trend. So start to look at trends in pictures.

Those powerful up the nose shots of your CEO used to be all the rage, but they’ve become too male dominant, shots are now much more inclusive – CEOs male and female dress casual in dark turtleneck or polo shirts or open neck blouses, dark jackets (dark is definitely in). Gone are ties, power shoulder pads and jewellery…😊

Judith Ingleton-Beer is CEO of IBA International.

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