Newsjacking: the textbook PR tactic for success?

Newsjacking is an always-on digital PR tactic which is being used more and more in campaigns to put clients at the centre of conversations happing around popular topics. Usually, it is tracked by software ensuring PR agencies can stay ahead of trends and more importantly, bring their clients results. In 2018, Twitter UK thought outside the box and created their own Christmas advert showcasing the owner of the @johnlewis Twitter page, a man from Virginia USA.

The advert follows the archetypal John Lewis Christmas advert narrative of igniting an emotional response in the audience by using instrumental music and close camera shots. However, rather than displaying an emotional narrative, the advert shows the American John Lewis sitting at his desk replying to different consumer queries people have accidently tagged him in. At one point during the advert, the action pauses, and John Lewis asks the musician to stop because he is getting distracted, to which the musician replies “same time next year”, referencing the yearly John Lewis advert. The advert concludes with the text “Join in this Christmas. Even if it’s by mistake.” Alongside the Twitter logo and hashtag #NotARetailStore. This video was released on Twitter and gained 3.5 million views and 76.4k likes. Over the years there’s been many examples of reactive PR campaigns, but the execution of this campaign was a huge success.

Knowing this, I wanted to explore whether reactive PR, specifically news-jacking is the future of digital PR campaigns. It’s no secret that we live in a digital era, where most stakeholders and demographics can be reached on social media. Alongside this, the digital era has made news dynamic as it can be constantly updated. Therefore, if your aim is to gain publicity it can be determined that by newsjacking popular trends you can achieve this. More recent examples of newsjacking include the various PR campaigns which have come about after the success of Squid Game. PR professionals were able to track the popularity of the show and to suggest to clients’ products to push. For example, many shoe suppliers promoted the fact they sold white Vans after the participants in the show wore white vans as part of their costume. Moreover, in October when Instagram and Facebook crashed for 6 hours the official Twitter account tweeted “Hello literally everyone”, and then used Twitter to communicate with other brands in a comedic way. For example, they asked McDonalds for 59.6 million chicken nuggets for all their users.

Personally, I really like newsjacking as a PR technique. I think it’s funny, effective and can be used in clever and entertaining ways. I think it seen as more personal than the generic PR or Marketing campaign which just pushes products to an audience. The success of the John Lewis advert is a prime example of this, audiences clearly like seeing it and find it entertaining. It’s important that it’s used in a sensitive way and campaigns aren’t produced to profit off inappropriate news stories. What do you think of newsjacking as a PR tactic?

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