Newsjacking, the art of generating attention for your brand during an unrelated news story, has picked up major steam with the adoption of the 24-hour news cycle— and most specifically, Twitter.
Many brands have taken up the practice to piggy back on big television events, i.e. the Super Bowl, and pop culture stories such as the Royal Wedding and subsequent Royal Baby. Oreo, Audi and Best Buy are just a few of the brands to take to Twitter during the Super Bowl blackout earlier this year, showing quick minds and speed usually reserved for crises to grab attention for their products.
However, even shameless plugging has its limits. This week, fashion designer Kenneth Cole sent waves through the Twittersphere for newsjacking the ongoing conflict in Syria by tweeting about “boots on the ground”—a phrase used in recent weeks by top political officials to refer to sending troops to Syria— to promote his line of footwear.
It’s not the first time Cole—who’s admitted that most of his tweets are himself and not a community manager—has used unrest in the Middle East to plug about his product, famously tweeting that protests in Cairo were just millions of Egyptians celebrating that his new spring collection was online.
While Cole has admitted his latest tweet was intended to “provoke a dialogue” about Syria, social media circles can agree his approach outweighs any explanations. It’s also difficult to believe Cole had anything but business motives, especially with the designer being quoted in an upcoming Details article that the exposure from his “inappropriate, self-promoting” Egypt tweet resulted in rising stock, better e-commerce and in-store business, and 3,000 new followers on Twitter.
Newsjacking may not always be light-hearted tweets about dunking cookies in the dark, but it does require a certain level of tact by the social media team. It's important to stop and ask a few quick questions before you hit send:
• How much of a stretch is this to my brand?
• Would my current followers be turned off by this?
• How hard a news story is this?
• If this is a tragedy, how long should I stay off social media?
For serious news stories, it's probably best to stay far away, lest your own brand get tarnished as insensitive and out of the loop.
Susan Shimotsu - Public Relations Specialist