Newsjacking: What, when and how | brandInspired newsletter

Four Lads in Jeans Sony
From our brandInspired newsletter

A Brand's Fairytale of Four Lads in Jeans

For as long as I can remember, brands have been taking advantage of trending and viral news stories. Every week there seems to be a new viral trend or meme that brands are scrambling to get behind. Most are fads and have very little staying power, but let me share a story of one that could out last the average meme.

Back in 2019, these four gents above posted a picture on Instagram of the four of them before a night out wearing jeans. The internet, being a cold, heartless place that it is, turned them into a meme, mocking them for their choice of clothes.

The meme was brought back into the limelight this year when it crossed paths with the TikTok sensation of the Sea Shanty (which should be a whole other email in and of itself), renewing the bullying of these innocent men.

After speaking out on Good Morning Britain and radio appearances on BBC R1 about the struggles of mental health, promoting positivity and being kind, the Four Lads in Jeans, as they came to be known, landed a special deal with Sony.

They became the faces of Sony’s new noise-cancelling headphones (WH-1000XM4). Sony said “who better to promote our WH-1000XM4 award-winning noise-cancelling headphones than these four inspiring individuals who have shown the value of blocking out unwanted noise in the everyday”.

It reminds me of the story of a 20-year-old woman a couple of years ago who had been bullied on Tinder for how she looked wearing a dress. ASOS who sold the dress tweeted in support of the woman and included her picture on the product page on their website.

Your actionable takeaway

Admittedly, for most brands, heck, even for big brands, a chance to boldly stand behind your values and take advantage of a viral news story don’t come very often. The two above are anomolyse. However, it’s important to spot the signs when there is potential.

What to look for when newsjacking

First and foremost, the story, or your take at least, has to be relevant to your customers. If it’s not, it’s likely to either fall on deaf ears and no one will care or attract the attention of people not likely to buy from you.

Secondly, you have to be able to tie it into your brand without it seeming forced. This might mean sitting down and really thinking about what your brand’s voice is if you haven’t already. What are the brand values that you live by?

Finally, your take on the story should raise an emotion from your audition. Whether it’s humour, empathy or another (preferably positive) emotion depends on the type of story.

The ASOS and Sony examples above worked so well because they hit all three of those markers. They were relevant to their customers because those in the story were their target demographic, they allowed them to talk about their brand values (body positivity and mental health) and they evoked the emotion of empathy, with a little bit of humour.

How to newsjack

Like all marketing, there is no one size fits all for newsjacking. There’s no secret sauce. But here are some good ideas to keep in mind:

  • Look at Twitter trending topics and follow topics that your customers will care about to identify trends early
  • Consider the consequences if the campaign backfires. Do you have the resources to manage any negativity?
  • Plan a press release to local or relevant industry media to share your campaign
  • Create a landing page on your website to capture sign ups or leads, make sales or another call to action that people searching for your brand might take
  • Engage your current audience. If it feels right, send an email out to your audience telling them about the campaign and encourage them to get involved
  • Often trends don’t last long. Can you justify the time for the potential reward?
  • Sometimes newsjacking can backfire, especially if your campaign isn’t relevant to your customers or the wrong crowd gets involved. Are you prepared to handle any fall out from that?

Not all newsjacking campaigns will require all of these actions, but it’s good to consider each one before you start planning it. Plan for the best and worst case scenarios.

Newsjacking works because it can be fun for your brand, engages your audience in a different way and can attract new customers. Don’t be afraid to get out there.

P.s. here is a throwback to a newsjacking tweet I sent whilst working for Visit York commenting on the New York Times’ article about a “large fluffy pancake”

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