Content Marketing: How to Capitalize on Breaking News and Trending Topics

20 Content Marketing Experts Discuss Newsjacking

African Amercian Newspaper Boy 1921From a content marketing perspective, trending topics and news can help you to attract an audience and gain attention for your product, brand and/or company. David Meerman Scott, author of Real Time Marketing and PR, coined the word, “newsjacking” for this process so that you can interject your company’s point of view into the news cycle.

To better understand how to use newsjacking as part of your marketing, here’s what twenty content marketing experts, including David Meerman Scott, have to say.

Newsjacking-David Meerman Scott1. I presume you’re talking about ‘newsjacking’ or ‘eventjacking’ – something that, as an ex journalist, just instinctively rubs me the wrong way. Unless it’s done very carefully it can easily come across as unseemly and tasteless. The main issue I have with newsjacking is the speed at which it’s required (in order to get the most benefit from it). Speed, especially in the hands of inexperienced or junior level employees, more often than not results in disaster. One only needs to look at Kenneth Cole, American Apparel, Kmart (and the Sandyhook tragedy) and many others to see the fine line one must walk when attempting to newsjack. Even capitalizing on trending topics seems a little…I don’t know…lazy to me. At Spin Sucks we’ve spent these last months really ramping up our SEO in an organic way, using what I believe is the most important part of any PR or marketing strategy – solid, sharable content. We provide that same quality content to clients for their properties as well, using natural keyword placement that doesn’t hit you over the head screaming SEO or “major disaster happening – must capitalize”!! People/customers are very savvy these days, they expect quality content, and don’t want to read something that’s filled with link bait or a ridiculous number of repetitive keywords. If anything, we’ll give a little poke in the eye to trending topics or news – I recently wrote about outlets and bloggers newsjacking the Boston Marathon tragedy, and managed to tie it back – tongue firmly planted in cheek – to business lessons learned from having Bells Palsy (which I’ve had for the last two months)! We like to have fun on Spin Sucks, and often laughter really is the best medicine. ) Lindsay Bell of Spin Sucks.

2. Capitalize? I really don’t much anymore, unless I feel I can add original analysis around it. For years now, breaking news has been a very crowded market. People jump in, but I find very little unique value.  Dan Blank of We Grow Media.

3. We definitely follow the breaking news around our topics, especially research reports, visual content like videos and whitepapers. And then we try to add value for our audience by finding it for them (curating)  Michael Brenner of SAP and the B2B Insider blog.

4. VERY carefully! While newsjacking has become a popular tactic, it must always be done in good taste and you don’t want to come across as taking advantage of any situation so be very smart about it. The worse thing that can happen is that your community reacts negatively to your attempts. Be very smart about it.  C.C. Chapman author of Author of Amazing Things Will Happen and co-author of  Content Rules.

5. To take advantage of trending news as part of your content marketing strategy, be careful not to jump in too quickly or you’re liable to get your facts all wrong. Or, worse, you may be viewed as taking advantage of news in an inappropriate way that can lead to a PR crisis. Rather, determine what’s actually happened and the impact it has on your readers. You want be viewed as timely and relevant not as a news vulture.  Heidi Cohen of Riverside Marketing Strategies.

6. Timeliness is very important in terms of capitalizing on breaking news.  First and foremost, you can quick curate the breaking news from the sources already covering it in a 100 word blog post, and corresponding tweet that explains why the news is important to your audience.  Next, when you get a little more time, you can then sit back and create a longer form blog post to flush out your thoughts based on your curation efforts.  If the issue stays in the news long enough, you can then combine a series blog posts about the topic in the form of a longer form guide or eBook.  Pawan Deshpande of Curata.

7. In computer studies, much is made of very simple challenges that computers are far from being able to meet – that humans are capable of achieving in the blink of an eye.  Making connections between trending topics and our clients is most often accomplished by the community managers, themselves.  After all, they eat, drink, and sleep their particular communities – thus when they see something pop up in the news, they are immediately able to infer a relevant connection.

One of my favorite examples took place a few years back when Sarah Palin was running for vice-president.  It was reported that Palin had gone to a fashionable department store for a new wardrobe.  One of our clients was a leading discount fashion clothing store.  The community manager immediately blogged (and shared out to social media) that Palin should have shopped at our client’s store. The press picked up on it, and it was mentioned in almost every major news piece about the incident.   If it hadn’t been for the quick-thinking on the part of the community manager, it wouldn’t have happened. Ric Dragon of Dragon Search and Author of Social Marketology.

8. I do this almost entirely via social media and commenting on timely blog posts. I probably haven’t ever “stopped the presses” to create a blog post based on news. An exception might be when I report on events. I often attend conferences knowing I’ll report from the field. And this year, I tuned in closely to the Super Bowl hoopla and had plenty to say before, during and after.  Barry Feldman author of The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketinga free e-book.

9. I think the first thing is to simply stay on top of breaking news and trending topics. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on and understanding the potential relevance to your market, if any. Where you have something appropriate to add, it’s great to add your voice, either via Twitter, a blog post or reaching out to media. And, of course, there are those great moments when you can “newsjack” a story (to quote David Meerman Scott). But it’s important to not try to force things. Brands look dumb when they try to force themselves into a story. And, of course, there’s the nightmare of inappropriate context like the Epicurious – Boston bombing fail.  Barry Graubert of Content Matters.

10. I don’t know that I capitalize so much on breaking news or trending topics as much as I capitalize on the ability of smart aggregation to quickly surface relevant content around a topic. When there is breaking news or a hot, trending topic I will often throw the spotlight on our publishers and the papers that they are creating around these topics and share them with our community. The community appreciates being directed to ‘what’s hot and happening’ so they can repurpose from there.  Kelly Hungerford of

11. You can capitalize on breaking news and trending topics by finding the intersection of those topics with content appropriate for your audience and then sharing that. Dave Kerpen of Likeable Media and Author of  Likeable Business and  Likeable Social Media.

12. We actually do not take advantage of this technique as often as we could or should. We are generally working off our content editorial calendar which is planned 60-90 days in advance so all of our content producers know their assignments well in advance and have budgeted their time accordingly.  Periodically though, there is some news in our industry that we feel we have to get out to our client base. When that happens we quickly look for an internal resource who can produce a timely piece of content and we move that up the priority list.  Arnie Kuenn of Vertical Measures and author of Accelerate.

13. Topical content enjoys some of the highest levels of engagement in digital channels. It captures attention, generates sharing, and can be highly relevant and interesting. That’s not to say any brand can capitalize on any news event. We saw horribly awkward missteps during the recent tragedy in Boston that made some brands seem tone deaf at best, insensitive at worst. On the other hand, Oreo’s timely tweet during the Super Bowl blackout was a social media triumph. Trained teams that can exercise judgement against brand and content strategy (rather than lowly “social media interns”) are central to any real or near-real time marketing initiatives.  Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter and Author of Content Marketing and The Truth About Search Engine Optimization.

14. The ideal situation would be to take a David Meerman Scott approach to newsjacking the topic at hand and riding the wave of search results that follow. If there’s no time for that then simply sharing the coverage with some insightful commentary to Facebook, G+, Twitter etc can be very effective as well, depending on how high profile the source is of course. It’s also a good idea to be an early commenter on these timely topics.  Jason Miller of Marketo.

15. You need to try to be the first to present it, if you can’t you need to add your own unique twist to it.  Neil Patel of Kiss Metrics.

16. If we see a story of true importance to our readers, it goes to Michele Linn, our content director, to see if we need to develop an opinion for a future story on the blog.  If it’s incredibly important from a strategic aspect, we will look to cover it in more depth in Chief Content Officer magazine.  Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute and Author of Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers.

17. Get there first and only for the news that’s actually relevant to your audience.  While you might get lucky and be able to capture some additional traffic from the increased search volume, it’s likely not going to be the right type of visitors for you blog or site.  No one likes ‘ambulance chasers’.  Nate Riggs

18. What changed recently is that Google now indexes in real-time. That allow a timely blog post to be seen by journalists as they search for more information on a topic. Prior to that change, there was no way to inject your take into the marketplace of ideas in real-time. Real-time is the key here. Yet nearly all PR people are in campaign mode rather than real-time mode, so those like us who understand newsjacking have an advantage.  David Meerman Scott, author Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage

19. With great care. Not every breaking moment is worth exploiting. And when you get into the habit of capitalizing on every breaking moment, you can easily appear opportunistic. Look for ways to use real-time engagement for authentic, not opportunistic moments. For example, last Christmas season, REI engaged with shoppers on Twitter seeking gift-giving inspiration. They produced and replied with personalized videos offering product suggestions. Oreo’s Super Bowl slam dunk is a rare example of a perfectly timed news-driven moment, but recognize that there are risks inherent to this sort of thing. REI’s strategy isn’t risky at all and, if you ask me, has the potential for deeper, longer-lasting impact on brand preference and loyalty. Focus on earning a customer for life in the conspicuous light of the social web.  Jake Sorofman of Gartner.

20. The topic I write about most often is risk management for bankers. As you know, the last four or five years have been horrible for financial services firms. It’s easy to talk about how to apply risk management techniques when the giants are caught for insider trading or when their customer database is compromised. When those stories hit the wires, my posts are likely to come up during the frenzied search for more information. And, watching for those big stories gives me ideas for blog posts. Waynette Tubbs of SAS.


While it’s important to provide up-to-date information for your audience, take care when  leveraging the power of current news, it can be an effective tool for attracting attention and building your following but it can also backfire on you causing a PR issue.

Do you take advantage of breaking news stories and other current trends? If so, how does this effect your content offering?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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