6 tips for newsjacking—and content marketing—smarts

Thinking about tweeting during the Super Bowl—or the next terrorist attack? Slow down and pick up some tips from Shel Holtz.

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You’ve heard about Oreo’s success in “newsjacking” by tweeting an image of a cookie during the Super Bowl blackout.

But before you newsjack the next big event dominating the networks, consider the fate of the food site Epicurious, says Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology

After the Boston bombing, the brand tweeted, “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!” A storm of criticism followed, and Epicurious had to apologize—repeatedly.

“This compulsion organizations have to do something in the wake of breaking news is going to lead to a lot of issues and troubles,” Holtz warns.

How do you get it right? In a session titled “How to use content to drive your PR and marketing efforts,” Holtz offers techniques for content marketing success, both in newsjacking and in your planning.

Here are a few of them:

1. Be relevant to the discussion.

What was the connection between cranberry scones and an atrocity in Boston? Not much, Epicurious came to realize after its two half-baked tweets riled customers on the day of a tragic event.

How to do it right? A great newsjacking success came in 2011 when Richard Branson’s Virgin Islands mansion burned down and actress Kate Winslet, a guest at the home, rescued his 90-year-old mother, Holtz says.

The London Fire Brigade wrote a blog item inviting Winslet to visit and get firefighter training, resulting in worldwide media mentions. But the success wasn’t because somebody thought, “Hey, we’re firefighters; let’s tweet about Kate,” Holtz says.

The brigade, which had over 300 female firefighters, had been trying to recruit more women to its ranks. There was a logical connection between the news event and the newsjacking.

Holtz adds, “If you really have a connection to the news story, there are tremendous opportunities here.”

2. Create expectation by building a foundation.

However spontaneous it seemed, Oreo’s Super Bowl success didn’t happen in an instant. The brand tweeted images every day for a year, celebrating events such as Talk Like a Pirate Day, Holtz says.

When NASA’s rover Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, Oreo tweeted an image of an open cookie with track marks across its red filling. Oreo had a backup plan in hand, in case Curiosity crashed, Holtz says. Yet the brand was light on its feet and managed to adjust, as when the NFL referees suddenly returned from their strike.

With fans scarfing crumbs of wit every day, they were already in the habit of looking to the cookie maker’s response to events when the Super Dome went dark. In a less celebrated newsjacking, Oreo also quickly tweeted a zebra cookie after the NFL referees strike was settled.

3. Offer valuable content.

Ever see that adorable video of baby twins babbling to each other? When it went viral, Boston Children’s Hospital jumped on it and interviewed the coordinator of its speech-language pathology services. The piece, titled “The science behind babbling babies,” included the embedded video, scooping up searches as people looked for the talking tykes.

Boston Children’s also offered interesting content: an explanation of a funny event everyone was tweeting and posting on Facebook.

“That’s leveraging the news,” Holtz says, “and taking advantage of the fact that people are searching on this to elevate the discoverability of your content and your site and your expertise.”

4. Make yourself discoverable.

Google’s analytics are changing, Holtz says. Engagement—links, “likes,” Google+ endorsements—are also driving what turns up on the first page of searches.

“Google’s making it harder and harder and harder to do this unless you are producing original, useful, valuable content,” Holtz says.

5. Offer fans a peek behind the curtain.

Disneyland’s Club 33 is a members-only restaurant at Disneyland, in New Orleans Square. It boasts four-star chefs and antique furniture. Want to eat there? There’s a decade-long waiting line, and membership costs thousands of dollars, Holtz says.

So Disney’s blog allowed fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Dying to See Club 33, complete with a photo tour and interviews with chefs and the maître d’.

Asks Holtz, “What does your organization have that your biggest fans would love to have that peek behind the curtain?”

6. Use humor—but cautiously.

Often newsjacking and content marketing failures can be blamed on poor attempts at jokes (think Kenneth Cole). Humor can engage, but “you have to be really funny,” Holtz says. Right behind poor spelling and grammar, the No. 3 item on a recent list of things that will make fans unfollow you is trying too hard to be funny-and failing.

A success? Holtz cites an app from Rethink Breast Cancer called Your Man Reminder, which had a promotional video that won 6.8 million views. The organization uses buff guys to urge women to get their breast cancer screenings.

Let’s just hope nobody follows suit with bikini-clad babes telling men to get prostate exams.

@r_working

(Image via)

Topics: PR

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