Hello again, welcome to episode number 27 of the Content Champion podcast. I'm excited to announce that my guest this time is globally renowned marketing strategist, author and speaker, David Meerman Scott.
In a prolific career, David has already published 10 books – including the industry classic, ‘The New Rules of Marketing & PR'. Yet as an ex-journalist it's David's Newsjacking strategy that fascinates me most. His book of the same name and unique approach to this content marketing technique are therefore our subjects for discussion.
David was very generous with his time, and for half an hour we talked about David's background in marketing, and looked at some real life examples of Newsjacking in action.
The subjects covered include:
Plus! The PS Question! David reveals another agile marketing strategy that is truly unique. You won't have heard this anywhere else!
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Announcer: Welcome to the official Podcast at ContentChampion.com. Join our heroic quest to discover truly epic content marketing. Introducing your host, the content champion himself, Loz James.
Loz James: Hi, folks. Welcome to episode 27 of the Content Champion Podcast. I’m delighted that my guest on the show this time is none other than renowned marketing strategies, best-selling author and globally in-demand speaker, David Meerman Scott, author of the industry classic, The New Roles of Marketing and PR and many other highly-regarded publications.
It’s David’s more recent book, Newsjacking that we’re discussing on today’s show. As an ex-journalist, I’m fascinated by Newsjacking. It’s a technique businesses of all sizes can use to gain attention online. With someone of David’s experience on the Podcast, I was excited to start our interview. Let’s dive in. Thanks for coming on David.
DM Scott: Hey, it’s great to be here Loz.
Loz James: Today, we’re going to talk about Newsjacking, a content marketing strategy from your best-selling book of the same name. Before we kick off though, you’re a renowned marketing and sales strategists and the author of many popular books. How did you get started in this industry? You say on your website, it was an accident.
DM Scott: I was actually doing this stuff before we have names for it, before people talk about content marketing and that sort of thing back right at the beginning of the web. For example, I was writing press releases and putting them out to the press release distribution wire simply for search engine optimization purposes for example.
That was in the late 1990’s. I was definitely doing content marketing or inbound marketing whatever you want to call it before anyone had names for it. Then in 2002, the company I was working for was acquired by Thomson Reuters and I got fired. I had to figure out what I was going to do next.
That was a terrible job market because it was just after the dot-bomb crash and only six months after 9/11 and the terrorist attacks. It’s a terrible time to try to find a job. I just started to work with a couple of clients on a consulting basis to implement the ideas that I had been using in the company I was working for. It was working great, then I started to write about it. I started my blog in 2004.
I wrote my first content marketing book in 2005. No one has ever heard of it. It’s called Cashing in with Content. A little bit dated now but it was the first content marketing book then The New Rules of Marketing and PR, my international best seller came out in 2007. I’ve written 10 books.
Loz James: Well, it’s a real pleasure to have you on someone of your experience. Let’s turn to Newsjacking if we may. I’ve just read your excellent book but for those that don’t know, can you outline the concept behind this strategy please?
DM Scott: Yeah, of course. It’s basically the idea of, I call it the art and science because it does take both things of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story in order to get attention for your business and to get coverage in the media and through social media.
Essentially, what you do is monitor the news, find the story that’s in some way related to your area of expertise then typically do a blog post although there are other ways to do it that somehow ties you and your ideas to that news story. Hopefully, the media will find it and people will notice it to the search engines and whatnot.
Loz James: This is really the ideal strategy for small businesses, isn’t it? Because it allows for David-and-Goliath approach to marketing, if you like, we can all play with the big boys and beat them, can’t we?
Loz James: Yeah. That’s one of the things that’s really great about it. For example, Trent Silver is a 22-year-old entrepreneur. He’s got a couple of different businesses but one of his businesses is called Cash for Purses. What he does is he buys people’s used handbags, purses online and then fixes them up and sells them on.
It’s just a one-person business. He’s young, 22 years old. What he does is he looks for stories that he can hang his ideas off of. For example, about a year ago, Lindsay Lohan that was being reported was having money troubles. It was all over the media that she was running out of money and nobody wanted to hire her to do films anymore.
He then offered to buy Lindsay Lohan’s purses from her. He did that through a blog post. He did that through other forms of social media. The media found this and they loved it. He got stories written about him, written about this in The Huffington Post, in The Inquisitor and a bunch of different publications.
Interestingly, every single story talked about Lindsay Lohan’s money troubles and then talked about how the key to her salvation and that was even one of the headlines is that she could sell her purses to Cash for Purses and they even had the URL to his website.
He uses this technique, newsjacking, to generate attention for his business. Of course, it’s completely free to do this and it generates great results for him and many other people.
Loz James: As an ex-BBC journalist myself, this technique fascinates me because journalists always need this type of timely information, don’t they? I guess, this makes the strategy ever green but you’ve got to be as you say, quick off the mark with it, haven’t you?
DM Scott: As a journalist, you would clearly understand this. I worked in a journalism company for many years. I was Asian marketing director for a company called Knight Ridder which at that time, was the second-largest American newspaper company. I was based in Asia for 10 years with them.
Yes, journalists when there’s a breaking news story, particularly when it first breaks, everyone is looking at the same information. There’s a report that there’s something happening that government issues a report or there’s some kind of, I don’t know, if it’s business related, maybe there’s a company acquisition, whatever it is.
Everyone in this, all the journalists and particularly in this era of real-time journalism, everyone is scrambling to figure out if they can get an angle on the story that nobody else has because everyone already has the facts, right?
The idea of newsjacking is if you have a little take on it, throw it out there because the journalists can find it instantly because they’re all doing searches on Google and on social networks right then in order to find additional information to put in their stories. That’s illustrated really well by an example from a company called Eloqua, they’re a marketing automation software company.
The CEO of Eloqua, his name is Joe Payne, notice on his smartphone, one of his biggest competitors, a company called Market2Lead, had just been acquired by giant company, Oracle. What he did on his smartphone is he does a search for the company Market2Lead that was acquired and Oracle, the company that did the acquisition.
There was only one hit in the Google search engine for that acquisition and it was the announcement that Oracle made. Joe, being the CEO of the competitor knew he had a tremendous opportunity to help define what this means to the market, what the marketing automation software business is and all other things that he knew that journalists and analysts were going to be looking for at that precise moment.
He wrote a blog post called, Oracle Joins the Party. He talked about how this acquisition is great for the marketing automation software business of which, of course, his company is a player. He had quotable quotes. He had data that the journalists could site. All sorts of really great stuff in that blog post.
That blog post was released within several hours after the acquisition was announced. Then he ended up being quoted in stories, in PC Magazine, Information World, Bloomberg Business Week, a whole bunch of publications. Every single one of them when they wrote about this acquisition, they all quoted him.
Then they did something really clever, they then emailed a link to that blog post to everybody in their database. That then turned into a sales opportunity because many of the people in their database were either existing customers of the company acquired, Market2Lead or they were considering buying a product from either Eloqua or one of the competitors including Market2Lead.
They generated over one-million-dollars worth of new business from that one blog post. That’s the power of this stuff because the journalists are scrambling for information in a breaking news story.
If, like Joe Payne, the CEO of Eloqua, you have a piece of information that can be helpful, then you got to get it out in form of a blog or some other way that people will find it. Now, there’s a little punch line in that story and that is that about a year after that happened, Oracle also bought Eloqua.
They certainly got their attention by doing some newsjacking on one of their announcements and then they were also acquired as well.
Loz James: I love all these examples. It’s really about creative thinking, isn’t it? I don’t want to give too much away about the book but you got some great, legendary newsjackers in there like Larry Flynt of Hustler Fame and things like that. It really can work, can it, even if you’re a small business owner as well as the CEO of a large corporation?
DM Scott: I think that’s absolutely right. I think Trent Silver, I mentioned in my first example, 22 years old, runs a one-person business. Then you’ve got Joe Payne, the CEO of a corporation, I would call them a medium-sized company probably about 500 employees and he was able to do it.
Yeah, this stuff works for anybody. It works for the marketing department, PR department of a large organization, the CEO of a large organization. It can work for a small organization as well. I know of a lawyer, his name is Mitch Jackson, he’s a partner in a firm called Jackson & Wilson in California and he newsjacks.
What he does is he takes a look at stories in the California marketplace that have to do with legal issues and then on his blog in real time he comments on them. Because people are interested in a particular legal issue that happens to be in the news at that moment, many of them might be searching on it and then he actually gets new clients that way and then he gets quoted in the press. He’s actually been on television news commenting on news stories because of this technique.
Loz James: It can require a culture change though [inaudible 00:11:48] you’ve got to be flexible and nimble in your approach?
DM Scott: Yeah, you do. I call it a mindset shift that’s required. You need to be focused on doing something fast. Most organizations are so traditional and typically have many layers of approval they have to go through to get something out. There’s only a handful of people who are authorized to create, for example, a blog post. They have to get approval before they can push the button on it.
That’s just not going to work in these examples when something happens and you have to jump on it quickly. What I recommend that organizations do is develop a guideline sounds too heavy handed but an agreement that when an opportunity comes up, that certain numbers of people have the authority to be able to create real-time blog post or to create a real-time Facebook update or whatever it might be.
Because many times, and basically, based on the 24-hour news day, it’s likely that this is going to happen outside of business hours because the average business, if it’s open eight hours a day, that’s only one-third of an average day. If you’re talking about five days a week, it’s even less than a third. It’s probably more like a less than a quarter of the time of doing a given week or business hours.
Things happen on Sundays, they happen on Saturdays, they happen on public holidays. They happen at 3:00 in the morning. An example of somebody who did go through that process of gaining approval was a hospital organization called MultiCare Health.
MultiCare Health, the marketing people there were watching, just at home, watching Dowtown Abbey. They talked about a disease in one of the episodes of Downtown Abbey called Eclampsia. That disease, Eclampsia had, part of the plot line of that episode of Downtown Abbey.
What they did was a blog post defining what Eclampsia is and what the symptoms are and how to treat this problem. They ended up getting a thousand-page views to that blog post. They ended up getting a remarkable five-minutes on average per visit. Something like 35 or 40 people then clicked through to the Find a Doctor page on the MultiCare Health site.
They were, in a sense, wanting to see a doctor because they have this disease. You don’t really think about a hospital organization as having to find new patients but they do too for profit businesses like many others. They’re looking for new patients. They were able to be quick on the draw because they had already gotten pre-approval to be able to do this thing ahead of time.
Loz James: You touched on Facebook there. If you perhaps are a small business owner and you don’t have an established blog, what role does social medial play in this? I guess it’s a very quick way of getting the message out there.
DM Scott: Yeah. I think something like Facebook or LinkedIn as two examples are ways to reach a network that you already have of people who are already follow you on Facebook or people you are friends with on Facebook or people that you’re connected to on LinkedIn or who follow you on LinkedIn. Same thing is true of an email newsletter, reaching people you already know.
One of the huge benefits of newsjacking is reaching people you don’t yet know. Another way to do that, if you don’t have a blog is with Twitter because frequently, when news breaks, there will end up being a Twitter hashtag or some other way that you can use Twitter to communicate.
Sometimes, you can even find out what reporters are working on stories because the reporters might tweet something out using the hashtag, hey, looking for experts in such and such and subject and then you can just tweet back to the reporter if you’ve got an expertise in that particular subject. There’s a number of ways that social media can help.
I found, generally, if I were to advise someone, I would say the thing to think about that tends to work best is to do a blog post really quickly. Blog posts are indexed by Google instantly. Blog posts are longer form of content which gives the reporter an opportunity to read a couple of paragraphs unlike a tweet which is a 140 characters and unlike LinkedIn or Facebook, they can’t be searched on. Generally speaking, if you can do a blog post, that’s a great way to get your content out there.
Loz James: Is there any way you can, do you need to contact journalists directly?
DM Scott: You can do. I think if it’s clear that a particular journalist is working on a story, either you know that journalist covers a certain feat and if they’re likely to be writing a story about that breaking news, that’s certainly fair game or, this is an interesting approach I’ve seen people use.
Let’s say you go on the BBC website and you see that there’s a very simple rudimentary story that just talks about the facts of the news that just broke. It’s clear that this is a one or two paragraphs only. There’s no, they’re not quoting anyone. They’re simply saying this is a fact. There was this acquisition was just announced let’s say or something like that.
Then if the reporter’s name is on that whole story, you can reach out to them and go, hey, I know this story just broke and guess what, I’m an expert in XYZ and I’d be happy to help you out if you’re writing a follow up to your story. Yeah, sure, you can reach out to individual reporters.
What I’d highly recommend you do not do is just blanket people hoping for the best that you might find someone. That technique of reaching reporters directly really only works if you have a very good indication that that reporter is working a story or is highly likely to be working on a story.
Announcer: You’re listening to the Content Champion Podcast, showcasing the best content marketing strategies across the web. We’re back with David Meerman Scott.
Loz James: I’ve seen some examples today. There are pitfalls obviously. You have to judge the tone correctly. I’m not going to mention a story but there has been the death of a prominent celebrity. People are newsjacking that and it’s dreadful.
DM Scott: It’s terrible. I’ve seen a number of examples of that because I wrote the book called Newsjacking, a lot of people send me examples. They send me good examples, they send me bad examples. I’ve gotten a number of people who have sent me notes about this bad example.
I think it’s terrible. I think that unless you have a very strong tie to a negative news story that you should try to avoid newsjacking negative news stories. Again, unless you have a particular tie to that story, particularly if that negative news story involves death or destruction in any way.
I’ll give you an example, Hurricane Sandy came up to the American East Coast. I guess it was about maybe two years ago, a year and a half. I can’t remember exactly. It was a huge hurricane. It created an enormous amount of damage. Fifty-billion-dollars worth of damage, there was just under a hundred people who lost their lives tragically.
There were millions of people who are without power for in some cases, several weeks. It was a very, very big storm. Some people newsjacked that story and American Apparel is a clothing company, they newsjacked the story.
What they did was they offered people who were located in the US states that were affected by the storm, they offered them 20% off on any online purchases that they made in the next week. In social media, that erupted instantly as just unbelievably heartless and just a really bad thing to do.
But I’ll contrast that with Duracell. Duracell is a battery manufacturer. They also newsjacked Hurricane Sandy but the big difference is that number one, what they were doing was seen as helpful and number two, they’re a power company, they make batteries. They were tying what they were doing to the fact that people were without power.
What they did was they had a mobile recharging truck, I think they had more than one that went to some of the hardest-hit areas like Hoboken, New Jersey. On their Facebook page, the Duracell Facebook page, they announced that the recharging truck would be visiting these particular neighborhoods and what time they were going to be there and so on.
At no cost to anybody, they provided power, free recharging for people’s mobile phones and computers and tablets and whatnot. People loved it because after a day or two without power, people have been on their smartphones, they’ve been on their computers, running out of power. They’ve provided this free, high-speed charging stations and people really liked it.
Now, that’s an example of, it’s still an example of a story that has negative connotations because it’s still that same hurricane but the difference is that the company that was newsjacking in this case was a company that had a very clear tie to the story by the fact that they are a power company, they make batteries. Number two, what they were doing was seen as extremely helpful.
Loz James: Those two examples side by side is something, a point that really hits home in your book where you talk about business leaders having a problem in pairing stuff because of those guidelines you talked about earlier on but you can’t really do this under normal corporate constraints, can you, but you do need to exercise that judgment.
I guess that’s the hard thing because those two examples put together, perfectly illustrate some of the pitfalls.
DM Scott: Yeah, I think so. I think ultimately, it’s really hard to write down all the rules. I think that any company that tries to do it is going to fail. You can’t say we had the hurricane come through. You can’t make all the rules about what to do in hurricane. A famous celebrity dies, you can’t make all the rules of what to do if the celebrity dies.
In other words, the right approach, I believe, is hire smart people. Give them a bit of an education about how this stuff all works and then give them some coaching as they go along but then ultimately if it’s going to work, you need people who are going to be able to be agile, who are going to be able to need to make decisions on their own and then take a little bit of a leap off the cliff and get the stuff out there.
It’s an agile marketing technique. It’s a real-time communications technique. As such, it requires that instant engagement which is very hard to write a rule book around. You end up with 500 pages and people can’t possibly read something like that if there’s a breaking news story. It’s more like, the advice is do the right thing, be smart and go for it.
Loz James: Okay, just before we start to wrap things up, could you remind us where we can find you online and where we can buy Newsjacking and some of your other books as well?
DM Scott: Yeah, sure. I am on Twitter, dmscott. That’s D-M-S-C-O-T-T. Newsjacking, we decided with my publisher, Wiley, we decided to do an e-book only. The reason was I wanted to get the book out really quickly because I thought the technique was awesome and no one had written about it before.
I did not coin the phrase newsjacking. However, when I first saw the term newsjacking, I thought, wow, what a great term. What the hell is this? I Googled newsjacking. There were less than 200 hits for the phrase and lots of people would use it in different ways. It wasn’t as if it was, there was already a defined technique around newsjacking.
I decided, I had to write the book on this thing. This is fantastic stuff. I decided to do it as an e-book which takes much less time to get out. The other thing is the book itself was a newsjacking exercise because it came out the exact day that Amazon launched the Kindle Fire.
In other words, the colored version of Kindle. I did newsjacking as a color e-book with hyperlinks in it. You can link to some of the examples I talk about. Now, what’s cool about that is a lot of the stories that talked about the new Amazon offering also mentioned, because I newsjacked it, my book which was the first business book to take advantage of this new format in the Kindle.
Anyway, it’s available, electronic only as a PDF on Kindle, on iPad, on Nook and a bunch of other e-book formats. My other books are available all over the world. My book, New Rules of Marketing and PR is in 26 different languages. That thing is available all over the place.
Announcer: Wait for it listeners, here comes the PS question.
Loz James: Just before you go, a quick curveball. I call it the PS question.
DM Scott: Yes, all really good journalists are good at that one. I got so tripped up once when I was talking to a journalist to this long interview and then, just about to go, he throws in one of these PS questions.
I saw it coming but I failed to duck, and I’d stupidly answered the question and that was the only thing that got in the story and of course, it was a silly answer and I ended up getting a lot of crap for it. Okay, what’s your last question?
Loz James: The last question is not going to be that bad. Do you have another advanced content marketing strategy that you can share with us, please?
DM Scott: Another advanced content marketing strategy, I really do like anything that has a real-time component to it. I just think it’s a fascinating way to take advantage of what’s going on out there. I would call it cousin of newsjacking.
Other people when I’ve talked about it have described it as hashtag jacking although that sounds really negative but if there’s a conference going on, you don’t even need to be there. If you know a conference is going on and you know what the hashtag is for the conference and you have something valuable to add to the conference as it’s going on, you can actually create a tweet using the conference hashtag and get something interesting into the market.
If you do it cleverly in a way that can be seen as adding value rather than trying to pimp a product, you can do really well. The first time I saw this work where I went, my god, that was cool was I was speaking at an event in Amsterdam, a little while ago, it’s four or five years ago perhaps.
In the middle of my speech, there was a hashtag for the event, this is pretty early, it’s five years ago so not everyone was on Twitter but I think there are probably of the four or five hundred people in the audience, I bet 50 or 60 were on Twitter. People were tweeting live. A bookseller who was not even in the room, they were not even physically in the room.
They were in another city in the Netherlands tweeted that they had a special deal on my book, the Dutch version of my book and they had a link to where people could buy it. I thought that was really cool because I’m on stage, giving a speech, there were people who are at that point saying, well, maybe this guy is okay, maybe I should see if there’s a book if he’s got a book available now or something like that.
Then all of the sudden, it came through the hashtag through the Twitter feed. I thought that was really neat. I also thought that it could be incredibly abused.
You don’t want to just say, hey, are you interested in buying life insurance and then just attach it to some random hashtag but if it’s appropriate to the conference to the hashtag to the event that’s happening then, right then live and you know it’s happening live because you can plan for it, that’s a cool example.
Loz James: That’s an ingenious strategy. David, thank you very much indeed for your time.
DM Scott: Great to talk with you, Loz. Awesome.
Loz James: I love Newsjacking. I wish you all the best of luck in the future.
DM Scott: Thanks. I appreciate it.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Content Champion Podcast, available at ContentChampion.com, Stitcher, Zune, the Blackberry Network and on iTunes. Until next time, thanks for listening.
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