For public relations professionals, the idea of a successful newsjacking can feel like a fleeting dream, a wildly effective tactic that’s just out of reach. And even though “newsjacking” is a relatively new idea, iterations are already evolving from the term.
Marketing strategist David Meerman Scott, who is widely agreed to be the inventor of the term newsjacking in 2011, defines it as “the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.” Essentially, newsjacking involves tying your product, company or employee to a breaking, wildly popular news story.
Perhaps one of the most infamous example of newsjacking in the modern age is Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet, shared just moments after the 2013 Super Bowl briefly lost power. Dubbed “The Tweet Heard ‘Round the World,” the graphic was retweeted more than 15,000 and garnered ringing praise from business publications and the general public alike from both its witty merit and its strategically savvy communications team.
However, in an age where millennials now make up the biggest chunk of the U.S. population, newsjacking has taken a new twist: philanthropy.
In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, Airbnb created a hub for homeowners to sign up to offer free emergency shelter to the hundreds of thousands displaced by the storms. CNN, USA Today and Time are among some of the A-list outlets to feature this story.
Following the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Airlines offered free flights to the city for victims’ family members. The news of this gesture made Fortune Magazine, People.com and CNBC, just to name a few.
In 2016, FedEx made national headlines for flying a 1-year-old little girl from Memphis to Chicago so that she could receive a life-saving liver transplant. When massive snow storms forced dozens of canceled flights, the freight delivery service company used their expansive resources for good, earning coverage by Today.com, NBC News, and even The Weather Channel.
This philanthropic shift in newsjacking isn’t entirely surprising. After all, according to a Fortune survey, millennials are more likely than Gen Xers and baby boomers to say it matters if American businesses give back to society, and they’re more inclined than their elders to say they would buy products from companies that give to charity. Boston Consulting Group research shows that millennials expect companies to support social issues and causes.
So, while being a corporate steward makes a positive impact on the world, there is a strategic, self-serving element. Since millennials have overtaken baby boomers as America’s largest generation, this trend of philanthropic newsjacking is likely to increase in popularity, rather than decrease, and if it means a little more good in the world, particularly in times of tragedy and chaos, I say bring it on.
What are your thoughts on philanthropic newsjacking? Let us know in the comments below!