What is Ethical Newsjacking? (And How to Stay on Top of Industry Trends as a PR Pro)

Sep 12, 2022

Every PR pro is always working towards the next major press placement for their clients. And they employ tons of tactics to do it, like solidifying strong media relationships, leveraging past results, or carefully tailoring their pitches for certain media outlets and contacts. But one strategy that every PR pro needs to understand? Newsjacking. 

No matter your experience level, newsjacking can be…tricky. The approach is always risky, so it’s important to know how to newsjack ethically and appropriately to keep your clients on the path to success. 

What Is Newsjacking? 

Newsjacking is the PR term for inserting your client into a conversation they’re not already in (though they have a connection to it). With this strategy, you leverage trending stories that people are already talking about to get your client into the news. Your pitch will still be about the trending story, but with your client and their products at the center of it all.

But this is NOT a PR stunt! You’re not just acknowledging the news — you’re hijacking a news story and tying your client to it. It’s a piggyback strategy to grab attention where it’s already falling and twist trends to work in your client’s favor. 

Newsjacking is risky regardless of your niche, client, or experience level. Newsjacked content can easily come across as inauthentic and can damage your reputation, your media relationships, and your client’s connection to their audience. But appropriate, ethical newsjacking can help you garner positive coverage for your client that boosts their brand visibility. 

Wait…Can Newsjacking Really Be Ethical? 

Short answer? Yes, of course! The long answer is a little more complicated, though… 

Newsjacking can be ethical only if you follow three major guidelines: 

  • The newsjacked story makes sense for your client and their audience
  • Your pitch provides genuine value to your media contact
  • You’re not relying on clickbait to drive interest

In reality, newsjacking is super strategic and you can really use it to your client’s advantage! Certain topics and themes are easy targets for newsjacking, like holidays, industry-specific events, or entertainment news. 

Beyond those, though? Proceed with caution. 

Tragedies, climate disasters, war conflicts, and economic downturns should never be newsjacked. The only exception is if your client is absolutely essential to the conversation, like an expert offering an analysis of the situation or a nonprofit providing relief to those affected.

How to Newsjack Ethically 

When a newsjacking opportunity comes your way, you need to make sure you completely understand what’s happening before adding to the conversation. Do a quick keyword search related to your target news story to see what people are already writing about. Make sure you include the most searched keyword phrases in your content to boost the SEO value.

Once you’ve done your research, get to writing ASAP! You want to get your pitch out as quickly as possible, but make sure your information is accurate and your pitch angle is unique before sending it to your contacts. If you’re publishing social or blog content for your client, get it online as soon as you can! 

When crafting your content or your pitch, don’t just write a response to the news. Create an original angle for your client — if you can, try to tie the news to one of your client’s products, services, or recent brand news and include a call to action. Newsjacked pieces should always fit seamlessly into your client’s marketing strategy and align with their brand voice and vision, their goals, and their audience’s interests. 

5 Ways to Stay on Top of Industry Trends as a PR Pro 

A major part of newsjacking is just knowing what’s happening in the news! Staying on top of industry trends is an essential part of your routine as a PR pro. Here are five ways to keep yourself informed that you can turn into daily habits.

#1: Check Google News 

Google is your friend! Set up Google Alerts for relevant terms to your niche and your client's products and services. You’ll get notifications when there are new search results for the term, so you can stay on top of industry news as it’s published. 

The Google News tab is a great tool to spark some creativity when you’re feeling stuck in a rut, too. You can use it to search up some larger trends that your clients can jump on or dive deeper into something you’re already working on newsjacking.  

#2: Monitor HARO 

HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a great way to stay in the know about what the media wants to see. You can send off pitches that are a direct response to reporter requests and take advantage of last-minute opportunities. 

We have an entire masterclass inside The Pitch Lab on how to expertly navigate HARO and use it to land press placements! 

#3: Search Broad Topics for Smaller Trends 

Searching for broader topics that connect to your client can help you zoom in on smaller trends that are perfect for them. By searching a more general term (like “clean beauty,” “NFTs,” or “golf apparel”), you’ll discover a wide range of trends that you can newsjack and use to your client’s advantage. 

Look at what journalists are writing about and figure out how your client can weigh in on the subject or connect to the angles the media is prioritizing. From there, pitch your client (or clients, if you have a few that could contribute) as a resource for any stories related to the trend and execute your newsjacking strategy. 

Related: 10 Important 2023 PR Trends All Comms Pros Need to Start Prioritizing

#4: Utilize Editorial Calendars 

Editorial calendars show you what a publication plans to distribute throughout the year. Outlets both large and small have them, so collect as many as you can from your clients’ target outlets and plan your pitches accordingly. Keep an eye out for trends that multiple outlets will be covering at the same time and create unique, tailored pitch angles for each.

Sourcing, organizing, and reviewing editorial calendars is a major task, but don’t worry — we’ve got you covered in The Pitch Lab! As a member, you’ll receive Monthly Execution Plans that break down editorial calendars from dozens of national and local outlets, so you know what to pitch and when. 

#5: Keep an Eye on Global News 

Global and national events can and do impact the news cycle regardless of industry. Stay plugged into what’s going on in the world so you can anticipate trends that pop up in other countries and keep an eye on how global politics could affect your clients. 

Plus, being aware of world news helps you avoid a poorly-timed or -worded post when tragedy strikes. 

Newsjacking is a tricky tactic to navigate, but you can avoid a PR disaster by focusing on ethics in your strategy. The more you newsjack, the better at it you’ll become! And when you stay on top of what’s happening and get your clients into trending conversations, you’ll set them up for sustained media buzz no matter what’s in the news.