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Why Real-Time Journalism Requires Newsjacking

The concept seems so brilliantly simple that it just has to work: newsjacking. The word obviously refers to hijacking news. Or, as PR expert David Meerman Scott defined it in his bestseller Newsjacking:

How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. It’s about making the second paragraph of a news story, by quickly responding to emerging news stories, developing a response, in order to generate media coverage.

However true, the concept of newsjacking is not all that new. Any PR today should recognise it as a common tactic. In fact it has been good practice in the PR industry for decades. So why is newsjacking suddenly so popular?

One explanation is the emergence of real-time reporting. Imagine a breaking news story is published – let’s say on a new computer worm that infects military computers. An expert from a security company, like Symantec, is available to give some insights on the topic. A PR team drafts a statement and contacts journalists. This works particularly well for newspaper journalists: they want to cover the item in tomorrow’s paper as comprehensively as possible.

Little pig, little pig…

Many online media, including newspapers, are increasingly engaging in real-time reporting. To be able to compete with other media, a breaking news story will be covered when it breaks. Want to see how this works? Check out this compelling video by The Guardian, which takes the fairytale of the wolf and the three pigs as a starting point to discuss how real-time journalism works.

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In case of the computer worm: real-time reporting makes it possible for a journalist to start an article by just mentioning the news facts (New worm infects military computers). Meanwhile, the journalist will start looking for additional information to add to the story. The article will be updated several times, adding more background information and expert opinions.

Make it to the second paragraph

PR professionals that want to make the second paragraph of real-time media, have to make sure they get to the journalist first. Search plays a big part here, with a lot of research taking place online. The more a company expert has already written about a subject, the bigger the chance they will be approached by a journalist with an enquiry on the matter simply due to SEO rankings.

In short, real-time journalism has changed the way the PR industry can (or should) hijack a news story. First, speed is more important than ever, since news stories develop real-time. Second, it is critical that company experts can build their online reputation on a corporate blog, so a journalist will find them expert once looking for additional information.

Although newsjacking may have a negative ring to it – somehow it seems to imply all the benefit is on the brand’s side – if you tackle it the right way, it’s a win-win situation. Reporters are constantly looking for context and insights for their stories – newsjacking allows PR to become a source, not just for the benefit of being quoted. This is profoundly changing the world of PR: we are there much more to help clients become sources than to just communicate news or a message – brands are increasingly using their own channels for that.

Are you a PR or a journalist that regularly participates in newsjacking? What are your views on newsjacking? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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