Newsjacking: What It Is and How Your Nonprofit Can Use It

05/25/2018 4 min read Written by Jenny Traster

Breaking news always gets attention, and savvy organizations have learned how to hop on the bandwagon to bring some of that attention their way. A British Columbia chiropractor took advantage of news of a tremendously snowy winter, creating a video showing local residents how to shovel snow without injuring their backs.


Oreo cookies capitalized on the news of the 2013 Super Bowl power failure with a quick social media post. The post featured a dimly-lit cookie, a glass of milk, and the caption: “You can still dunk in the dark.” Norwegian Airlines used the news of the Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie breakup as a chance to place an ad for flight deals from Europe to Pitt’s hometown of Los Angeles. The caption: “Brad is single.”

Newsjacking Explained

While marketing strategist David Meerman Scott may have coined the term in 2011, newsjacking has been around for even longer. The practice involves inserting your organization into a breaking or topical news story with the goal of stirring up attention.

Get it right, and your nonprofit can be the talk of the town, gaining positive media attention and brand awareness. Get it wrong, and your nonprofit can still be the talk of the town, but the attention and awareness you get will be of the type you’d rather not have.

Tips for Getting It Right

Getting newsjacking right involves a balance of speed, accuracy, discernment and common sense. These tips can help.

Stay on Top of Breaking News

Stories are breaking every second, and the more aware you are of what’s happening, the more opportunities you’ll have for successful newsjacking. Consistently checking news sites, social media networks and RSS feeds and media monitoring tools can help you stay on top of breaking news.

Set Alerts for Relevant Topics

Make sure no significant subjects fall through the cracks by setting up alerts for topics relevant to your nonprofit. Google Alerts is a free and easy way to receive alerts based on your chosen keywords and phrases, delivered at a frequency you choose.

See Also: Nonprofit Inbound Marketing Tips to Tap into the Next Generation of Donors

Decide when to Strike and When to Pass

If you’re struggling to make a forced connection, you may want to pass on a particular story. Establish a list of criteria that can help you determine when to join the discussion and when to sit it out. This list can include questions such as:

  • What subjects are most relevant to our cause or organization?
  • Which subjects should we avoid completely?
  • Could our point be misconstrued or cause offense?
  • Is there a chance this could negatively impact a person’s first impression of our nonprofit?
  • Are we gaining attention at the expense of someone else’s misfortune?

Generally, topics of death, destruction, politics and religion are best avoided.

Be Quick

Some marketers advise striking with the first few hours or not striking at all. Others, however, say you can still newsjack after the news has passed, as long as you go into greater depth and provide meaningful insights valuable to your audience.

Write a Blog

Although some companies newsjack primarily using fast and witty tweets, you can give your audience more substance if you blog about it. Make the blog concise yet meaningful, and publish it relatively quickly. Make it a regular habit, and your nonprofit may come to the attention of journalists eager to connect news stories to your insights.

Participate on Social Media

Social media can still play a role in your newsjacking, as long as you use it amplify your blog or other substantial content. Use hashtags sparingly and only when the tags are directly relevant to your organization.

See Also: Do’s and Don’ts of Nonprofit Social Media

Don’t Spread Inaccuracies

Before you hop on a news story as part of your nonprofit marketing strategy, make sure the news is accurate. Get your news from trusted sources. If you’re not sure about the accuracy of a certain item, don’t use it.

Stay on Brand

Make sure the news you use, as well as the content of your delivery, align with the core values of your organization. This applies to the topic as well as the tone and style of the blog post, social media update or other content you create as part of your newsjacking efforts.

Recycle Content

Does a breaking news item remind you of a post your nonprofit wrote last week, last month or even last year? Don’t be afraid to recycle it. As long as your content is relevant, you can certainly use portions of old content to create a new post framed around the news story.

With an eye for breaking news, good timing, better judgement and creativity, newsjacking can become a successful part of your nonprofit marketing plan.


By: Jenny Traster

With a love of HubSpot dating back to 2010, Jenny works with clients to put the pieces of the inbound marketing puzzle together, from content marketing and social media management to demand generation and lead nurturing. When she’s not digging through data or reading the latest in social media trends, you’re most likely to find her traveling, practicing yoga or hiking with her dogs in the great outdoors.

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