Newsjacking

Newsjacking Not for Thin-Crust Competitors

The founder of Papa John’s Pizza blamed declining sales on slipping NFL viewership because of players kneeling during the National Anthem. Joining the cultural chorus on kneeling players opened up Papa John’s to online snark from its pizza competitors.

The founder of Papa John’s Pizza blamed declining sales on slipping NFL viewership because of players kneeling during the National Anthem. Joining the cultural chorus on kneeling players opened up Papa John’s to online snark from its pizza competitors.

Newsjacking can be an effective, inexpensive marketing PR strategy. It also can backfire, as Papa John’s discovered last week.

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter joined the cultural chorus of deploring NFL players who kneel in protest during the National Anthem before games. In an earnings call, he blamed the protests on his chain’s declining pizza sales. Rivals didn’t hesitate newsjacking Schnatter’s newsjacking.

Domino’s said its pizza sales were up, not down. Pizza Hut said NFL protests had no impact on its sales. DiGiorno Pizza went to the mattresses on Twitter, mocking Papa John’s faltering stock price and claiming in one tweet: “Better Pizza. Better Sales.”

Hopping aboard a trending story, known as newsjacking, is a tried-and-true way to gain attention on the cheap. Schnatter got attention all right, but paved the way for competitors to newsjack at his expense. Good reminder that newsjacking is a lot like chess. You have to think seven moves ahead, not just where to move your pawn.

Newsjackers need to prepare for blowback, a lot like confronting the school bully. If you aren’t up to fighting back, maybe you shouldn’t start the fight, even unintentionally.

DiGiorno newsjacked Papa John’s comment about declining sales to promote its own brand value, triggering a snarky exchange that DiGiorno seemed better prepared to wage than Papa John’s.Write here...

DiGiorno newsjacked Papa John’s comment about declining sales to promote its own brand value, triggering a snarky exchange that DiGiorno seemed better prepared to wage than Papa John’s.Write here...

DiGiorno has an online reputation for being chippy. When Papa John’s responded to DiGiorno by tweeting: "Frozen pizza = the pizza equivalent of a participation trophy," DiGiorno went for the throat, pointing out previous Papa John’s high-profile delivery gaffes and repeating claims it plagiarized DiGiorno.

One observer noted that if you lack the stomach for a “snarky social media” exchange, you should think twice about getting into one.

In this case, the problem started when Schnatter tied his personal views with his brand’s personality. Whining about a sales drop and blaming it on kneeling NFL players was a neon invitation for a social media bitch slap. Even when you are the official pizza of the NFL, complaining about fan drop-off is like serving jam to ants at a picnic. In addition to swipes by competitors, Papa John’s is fighting off a neo-Nazi website that declared it the official pizza pie of the alt-right.

If there were maxims on social media, one would be that there aren’t any rules. If you jump into the pool, you can’t complain about snakes in the water. Wrestling with reptiles may not be fun, but it can be healthy for a brand if you hold your own. DiGiorno has a chip on its brand shoulder and uses a combative online personality to fend off snark about frozen pizza. Schnatter knows his competitive circle and shouldn’t have been surprised by his rivals teeing off on him.

The bottom line is that newsjacking isn’t a spectator sport. Don’t bring a pizza cutter to a knife fight. If you have a thin crust, maybe you should stick with traditional advertising.

Gary-Conkling.jpg

Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

Newsjacking Versus News Releases

Earning media coverage by constantly pitching stories, including ones with flimsy news value, can seem depressingly hard and frustrating. Try newsjacking for a refreshing change.

Newsjacking allows you to hop on a trending topic with your own spin or comment, delivering your key message in a powerful, unfiltered way.

Newsjacking is a concept coined by David Meerman Scott for jumping on a trending topic with your own spin or comment. The advantage of newsjacking is that you are hopping onto a freight train already moving. The benefit of newsjacking is that your pile-on can be more message-centric.

In the media relations world, you need to jump through hoops to gain the attention of reporters, who receive hundreds of story pitches and treat many of them dismissively. All those hoops can obscure the main point you want to get across in your earned media attempt.

The 2013 Super Bowl blackout resulted in two of the best known consumer brand newsjackings. Oreo tweeted that people should use the blackout as a timeout to indulge a childish delight by pouring a glass of milk and dipping the popular cookie sandwich. Tide improvised with a tweet that said, "We can't get your #blackout, but we can get your stains out." Both were retweeted thousands of times at a value of millions of dollars in exposure. Their highest value, however, was in the targeted message they delivered at a time when people were listening.

Waiting around for major events to newsjack isn't a very productive media relations strategy, so you need to develop and pitch stories. But newsjacking should be an element in your plan – and an example of how to think of opportunities to drive your message, not just rack up column inches or blog references.

It's worth recalling that Scott also encourages marketers to create their own publishing platforms. To be effective, these platforms need constant content feeding. It is a perfect place for the media release the boss made you send, but will never see the light of day. And it is the perfect place to add more exciting content – including your newsjacking tweets or events –  that might appeal to reporters, bloggers and your own consumers.

Self-publishing platforms are a smart choice in an era when consumers have become their own content editors. You need to package your content so they can find what they want, but you can give them a lot of piles to search.

And your clever newsjacking will act as a neon sign for the media, online influencers and consumers as they seek you out online at your always open publishing platform.

This will be much more effective than trying to plug weak stories, me-too comments or non-news.