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Help, I’ve been newsjacked

Help, I’ve been newsjacked! The term may not be a household one, nor even a familiar one to you; but, you certainly should know about it…and more importantly consider using it when the timing is right because it is a very effective means to get your message out in a controlled manner.

“Newsjacking,” is a term popularized by marketing guru David Meerman Scott, and it’s a technique any travel agent can use. Here’s how it works:

You see a news item. You have a different take on it. You approach the publication (print, broadcast or online) that published it and ask for space to respond. Since all editors love controversy, the odds of a positive response are good, especially if your response is well crafted.

A form of “newsjacking” happened right here on TRO. I wrote a column about host agencies; and Jackie Friedman of Nexion offered rebuttal. In the end, in addition to establishing their position, Nexion received a highly effective advertisement for the host. It contains a nice summary of Nexion’s benefits and even a testimonial. As any PR expert will tell you, editorial mentions are worth much more than any ad space that might be purchased.

The Host Agency Directory I publish lists over 300. Any of them could have submitted a similar piece plugging their agency. But Nexion beat them all to the punch. Well, played indeed!

While Nexion is a large company and has a team of people working on communication and PR, this technique is available to any travel agency owner who is willing to invest a little time and exercise some imagination.

Remember when President Obama (twice!) said that no one uses travel agents any more? I wonder how many travel agencies approached their local paper about doing an op-ed piece that could have run with a headline like “Local Travel Agent Blasts Obama?”

How many of them called the news desks of their local TV stations and signaled their willingness to give the station a sound bite in response to the President’s ignorance?

An important point to note here is the “local angle” (something that didn’t apply in Nexion’s case). President Obama’s gaffe was a national story, so local editors would love to have some local angle to spice up their coverage of the story.

Newsjacking doesn’t always have to involve responding to a statement with which you disagree. Do you have an agency that specializes in mountaineering or adventure travel? Do you think a local news outlet might run a story that began, “Anytown travel agency, Summit Experiences, is donating tents and outdoor gear to the relief effort in Nepal?” You bet they would.

I know some agencies garner local attention by supporting youth sports teams and the like, but newsjacking is fundamentally different since it is tied to breaking news.

Newsjacking can be humorous, as well. One of my favorite examples is the Australian insurance company that sent out a blog post on the occasion of President Obama’s visit to Australia. They offered him free crocodile attack insurance for the length of his stay and garnered a lot of media mentions for their ingenuity. What celebs are visiting your neck of the woods?

Three important points need to be made about newsjacking. Above all, it has to be timely. The sooner you act on a breaking news story, the better. Second, be sure to use good taste and sound judgment; using the tragedy in Nepal to try to promote your Caribbean cruise is not a good idea. Finally, don’t spam; trying to jump on anything and everything is the best way to get ignored by the media.

So the lesson learned is be alert to national, local, and industry news stories or articles that, with a bit of imagination and quick response, can be turned to your advantage. Advertising is expensive, PR is free. Thank you, Ms. Friedman and thank you Nexion.

Kelly Monaghan, CTC, is a writer and publisher who has been covering the home-based travel agent scene since 1994. Prior to his entry into the travel industry he was a sales trainer for major companies such as AT&T, Arrow Electronics, and Brinks and wrote widely on sales and marketing for a number of professional publications. His Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course  has been endorsed by OSSN and The Travel Institute. His publishing company, The Intrepid Traveler  specializes in Orlando area attractions and offers discounts to travel agents who wish to use its guides as gifts or premiums.

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