How to piggyback a news story to strengthen your PR

With over 3.78 million social media users as of 2021, it’s no surprise that piggybacking, or ‘newsjacking’, remains one of the most effective PR strategies you can use. That is, of course, when done correctly.   

Smart off-the-cuff responses to breaking news and trending topics can elevate your brand’s position and generate a hub of engagement, but when done badly can quickly jeopardise your company’s reputation.   

What is piggybacking? 

‘Piggybacking’ and ‘newsjacking’ are terms made popular by marketer David Meerman Scott, and is the practice of joining in on breaking news stories to generate positive coverage and publicity for your brand.   

From global news, to sporting events and even #StarWarsDay (May the 4th…), newsjacking requires you to get involved with the buzz so you can align yourself as an expert to the headline or news story everyone is talking about.  

How to piggyback successfully 

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are invaluable tools when it comes to finding ‘on the pulse’ news stories, but beyond that, here are some tips you can take away when considering your next rapid-fire response. 

1. Speed is of the essence 

The news cycle moves continuously, so you need to think quickly when responding to a headline. Journalists will be looking for new angles to take on latest news stories, so positioning yourself as an expert, and swiftly, will help gain traction and position you above competitors who may also be looking to make comment.  

Staying ahead of industry news and planning your content will help you work out the best time to press ‘send’. Setting up Google alerts for your brand’s keywords, scrolling social media and taking the time to read news stories will help you stay on top of what is going on nationally.  

2. Make sure your reaction is relevant 

Understanding which news stories are relevant to your business is essential when using piggybacking to your advantage. Whilst it might be tempting to join the conversation on every hashtag, choosing to focus on sector specific news where you can offer genuine insight with proof points, will help boost your company’s prowess and expertise. 

In 2019, there was no escaping the breaking news on British Airways GDPR breach and the record fine of £183 million. The public interest meant this news was a reason for two HeadOn PR clients to share their insight and advice, and reassure business owners on ways to stay data compliant. 

In a quick reaction to the BA story breaking, Doherty Associates, experts in managing and securing cloud services, issued to the media advice on why the attack on BA’s data network was possible, and how BA should have been doing more to monitor, test and update their security systems to ensure there were no gaps in their cyber defense that hackers could take advantage of. This was complemented with further legal advice on GDPR regulations from Gardner Leader solicitors. 

The rapid and relevant response paid off with their comments appearing in The Times and a further eight pieces secured in major businesstechnology and marketing titles in just one day. 

3. Think before you tweet  

Ensure you can add value to the original story. Jumping on every trend or attempting to use news of a natural disaster, for example, to elevate your positioning will cause any savvy social user to see right through your PR strategy.  

Ensure there is a genuine and strong link between the story and your business, and confirm it fits with your corporate messaging and brand identity. Being insensitive or using weak links will only hinder your attempts to bolster your reputation as an industry expert. 

4Think beyond the ‘press’ 

Piggybacking extends beyond just sharing your expert insight through the media. Using a multi-channel integrated approach from social media, blogs to websites, will amplify your message and encourage people to find out more about you, your knowledge and your business.  

Relevant opportunities don’t appear too often, so it’s important to nail your piggybacking process so when the time is right, you know when to strike. If anyone is going to provide thought provoking insight or expert advice, why shouldn’t it be you? 

For further tips on effective piggybacking or ways to build your brand reputation and recognition, contact us here. You can also listen to our latest podcast here.

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