During the 2013 Super Bowl the lights went out unexpectedly at the Superdome. Oreo devised and tweeted this ad in response. That night it was retweeted over 14,500 times.

During the 2013 Super Bowl the lights went out unexpectedly at the Superdome. Oreo devised and tweeted this ad in response. That night it was retweeted over 14,500 times.

You’ve most likely heard of newsjacking. The portmanteau of “news” and “hijacking” has recently spread like wildfire, becoming the new buzzword for marketers looking to take advantage of current events to fuel their marketing efforts.

But effective newsjacking is easier said than done. There are many grey areas when it comes to adapting topical content and it’s crucial to consider how to be most effective in your attempt to sell yourself or your brand through this kind of content.

Consider the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to topical content.

The Good: SEO and increased traffic

Cooper Mini released this ad in January 2013, when it was revealed that grocery stores in the U.K. were selling beef tainted with horse meat.

Cooper Mini released this ad in January 2013, after it was revealed that grocery stores in the U.K. were selling beef tainted with horse meat.

Newsjacking has the potential to be a goldmine from an SEO perspective. As users search for breaking news en masse, why wouldn’t you want a slice of that traffic? Uniting keyword research and newsjacking can be a tasty combination for a marketer looking to bring users into their funnel.

Topical content typically performs well and will often get users interested and excited over the titles alone. It is much more likely to be shared and distributed across the social web, and while users flock to Facebook and Twitter to share news and opinions on the world at large, effective newsjackers can sit back and enjoy the spike in traffic.

A peripheral plus when it comes to newsjacking is the fact that it keeps brands and marketers focused on what’s going on in the world, both inside and outside of their industries.

The Bad: the short lifespan of topical content

Perhaps the most obvious drawback of topical content is that it doesn’t often have lasting power. News stories don’t really “stick” for very long and a news story from last week probably doesn’t resonate much today, let alone three months from now. This short shelf life drives a need to create more content more often.

Evergreen content – content that is essentially ageless due to its scope and information – has proven to be incredibly effective. Given the amount of thought, time and money that goes into a piece of content, marketers want to squeeze as much mileage out of a blog post or article as possible.

A dated or topically irrelevant piece doesn’t have any appeal once it reaches its expiry date, and it doesn’t always make sense to craft content that isn’t going to be relevant in a matter of weeks or even days.

News doesn't last. A Google Trends chart shows the lifespan of the Costa Concordia disaster in January 2012.

News doesn’t last. A Google Trends chart shows the media lifespan of the Costa Concordia disaster in January 2012.

The Ugly: newsjacking as exploitation

American Apparel received flack for its advertising campaign focusing on Hurricane Sandy.

American Apparel received flack for its advertising campaign focusing on Hurricane Sandy.

Marketers who newsjack have to be extremely sensitive when it comes to the stories they cover. While there are plenty of negative stories in the news, there’s no need to exploit or make light of tragedies and disasters in order to linkbait.

Brands may see these cheap shares as an opportunity to be clever, but such tactics will only work against them. David Meerman Scott, who is often credited with coining the term newsjacking, acknowledges that poor newsjacking can damage your reputation.

For example, various forms of newsjacking during Hurricane Sandy last year caused a bit of an uproar as industries from cosmetics to home appliances offered deals corresponding with the storm. Even Hubspot, which documented the examples of newsjacking, was accused of exploiting the tragedy and subsequently apologized.

The Takeaway

Newsjacking is most effective in moderation. You may want to consider newsjacking only for the big stories. Newsjacking has the potential to become a peripheral part of your content strategy rather than something integral.

There’s no question that topical content generates views and works to promote your brand, but don’t dig yourself into a hole by using such content as a crutch. Always bring something new to the table when crafting your content and only rely on topical pieces when it truly matters.

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