Newsjacking is something you’ll have seen. You might not be aware of the term but you’ll be familiar with the principle. You take a current event and you twist whatever announcement you want to make to fit it.
There was a lot of it about a couple of years ago. Journalists had press release after press release that would start “As we emerge from Covid…” or “In these difficult times”.
You can see why people do it. They want to seem current and relevant and newsjacking is a good way to do it. Today (Wednesday 19th July 2023 just to date this piece when you read it) we’ve read one person’s newsletter/tip sheet that includes leadership tips taken from Novak Djokovic’s tennis style. There are still a lot of people making tenuous links to Ukraine when they write about leadership or adversity.
Lighter examples might seem less risky. A few weeks back speakers were talking about wheeling out your best stories rather than relying on the new stuff and linking it to Glastonbury. We were almost tempted to suggest blur made quite a statement by kicking off their Wembley gigs (where our lead trainer Guy took the picture at the head of this blog, you might have wondered about its relevance) with a song from the new album rather than playing it safe.
There is a drawback to newsjacking though. It’s what stopped us.
Newsjacking needs to stand out
When we go into one of our regular clients to help with their new intake of PR people our focus is to help with pitching skills. One of the exercises we do is to get people to read out a pitch they’ve sent to journalists, which we then critique.
A year ago or so most of the pitches started off, as we’ve outlined above, with something about Covid.
This will have seemed an excellent idea when the writer was putting it together. It drew on shared experience. Everyone went through it. Everyone had a view. In the same way, maybe not everyone is a tennis fan but most people will have been aware of the Wimbledon tournament. So these young PR people set about relating their pitches to emerging from Covid…
…and in doing so threw all of their chances of standing out away with a few keystrokes. Sitting on the other side – and Guy still produces his podcast (relaunching in September, thanks for asking) so he does get pitches – we’d seen about five “Covid” pitches before we’d even come into the office.
Likewise if you scan Linkedin from the last couple of days you’ll find quite a bit on tennis. In a few weeks’ time as the women’s football world cup enters the more advanced stages you can expect to see a lot about teamwork. Extended cricketing metaphors are going to abound over the next few days.
And from the journalist’s point of view all of these pitches are going to look the same. None will stand out.
It’s like a game of chess (we are enjoying our tenuously-linked images today). You might think of a move that looks good to you. You might think “That’s good enough, it’ll do”. Only…everyone else will have anticipated it. Your story, no matter how good, is just going to look like one of the many. So, as you might if you wanted to improve your chess, look critically at your first move or first draft of your pitch – and if it looks too samey, see if there’s a better one.
Details of our pitching masterclass for public relations executives are on this link.