Newsjacking: quick tips for reactive outreach

Danny Lynch

A successful creative campaign normally takes several months to move from initial idea to receiving lots of media coverage. There are many parts involved and at a high level include these core components: ideation, research, content production and outreach. It is possible to achieve similar results in a fraction of the time, though, and this is where newsjacking comes in.

Put simply, newsjacking (or piggybacking) is offering a different angle on a current story. The aim is to jump in as the story is new and gaining momentum. If you respond within a matter of hours you can make the most of the exposure but this is only possible if you’re fully prepared beforehand, as timing is key!

At this point you might be wondering how a creative process that typically takes months can be condensed into a few hours. Before I show you how I did it, let’s look at some important steps:

Story

Find a story that’s already gained a lot of press in a short amount of time. Look for mentions of ‘annual report’, ‘new figures’, etc. This suggests an opportunity exists for the findings to be updated soon. What made the report get so much coverage? Break it down and get your hook.

Research

Where did the figures come from before? Find that dataset and check if it will be updated. Pick up the phone and ask!

New angle

If you had the updated dataset, what would you do with it that hasn’t been done before? Why would a journalist want to use it?

Preparation

Once you know when the figures will be updated, work backwards from that date. Collect all the published articles that reported on the story before, list the sites, journalist’s names, etc. and that’s your initial outreach list.

Here’s how I did it…

First, some context. An insurance client wanted to focus the next campaign on unoccupied property insurance, a product of theirs.

With all the talk about a housing crisis and how we need to build homes, I was curious: how many properties are already built but sitting empty? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how each London borough has changed over the years?

I thought so.

My idea was simple: look at the number of properties sitting empty in London and visualise the change in each borough over the last 10 years.

Future ideas: gov.uk statistics calendar

If you’re struggling for story ideas, check out Gov.uk statistics calendar for upcoming data they have scheduled to publish.

You can find all sorts of interesting, soon to be released data, such as baby names, travel trends, property insights, etc. They have an easy to use search bar to help you find what you’re looking for and tonnes of filters to help you sift through the data.

Gov.uk’s website gave me all the research I needed via a table reporting the number of long-term (where a property is vacant for more than 6 months) properties in England. The table drilled down to the exact number lying vacant in a London borough and gave an overall figure for England over the last 10 years!

Why I thought it would work

The story

Knowing gov.uk would release the new figures in April, I phoned them to find out the release date for the new dataset and then worked back from there with the following activities:

This is the London property heat map our designer produced as a gif by overlaying each year’s results onto a single static map. This gave the impression of animation as it moves through the years, yet is also an incredibly lightweight and simple file to produce:

Heat map of empty properties in London 2006 – 2016

Here are two of the big pieces of coverage gained from this simple idea:

I hope this gives you a few ideas on your own outreach endeavours!

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