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How to Use Social Media to Get Traditional Media Coverage

February 28, 2018

Are you newsjacking yet?

Leveraging trending news for press attention is the hot social media trend sweeping the nation and all the cool entrepreneurs are doing it!

David Meerman Scott and Josh Elledge are each big newsjacking fans

David Meerman Scott and Josh Elledge are each big newsjacking fans!

Mega props to David Meerman Scott for originally coining the term, ‘newsjacking.’ I actually had the chance to connect with him at a Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery event recently. (pictured here!)

I’ve been teaching on this subject for years and I’d really like to dig in on why social media is such a critical step to getting press coverage. It’s not enough to just produce content. It’s all about connection. (More on this below)

I know, I know. You’re not a “social media person.” You set up your Facebook and Twitter business profiles three years ago then promptly forgot the passwords (which were all the same). It happens a lot!

But you don’t need to be a Gary V. with 1.69 Million Twitter followers and even more books about getting those followers to have a social media presence that gets press attention.

With these few simple steps, you can easily begin using current events, hot topics and trending news to get the attention of journalists on Twitter, LinkedIn and more.

Identify relevant social media outlets

Figure out which journalists or news outlets are relevant to you, your business and your vision. This seems really obvious but you’d be surprised how many people just don’t do it right. You might really love reading Modern Unicycle Monthly, but if you sell luxury cat condos for the discerning housecat, well, the steampunk journalists at MUM should not be your first targets!

Once you’ve made your list, find the journalists’ preferred social media outlets. The vast majority of traditional journalists use Twitter as their preferred platform, but many are also active on LinkedIn and Facebook.  After you’ve pinpointed the proper social media channel, set up a business account on that site. Then let the games begin.

Think of this process as like online dating, but with fewer photos of shirtless dudes in Oakley sunglasses petting tigers.  Reach out to relevant journalists by following them and interacting with their posts. This helps set up the foundation for a working relationship. Be helpful, toss out story ideas and, whatever you do, DO NOT PROMOTE YOURSELF OR YOUR BUSINESS. You can make just about any mistake with the press and live to tell the tale, but being self-promoting out of the gate will get you no second chances.

Consistently follow trending topics

Trending news happens quickly, and it can become old news just as fast. Remember the old saying “yesterday’s news is old news.” Well, now it’s “ten-minute-ago’s news is no news at all.” So you need to be consistently browsing news sites or trending hashtags on social media (particularly within your industry). If you don’t have time to do this yourself, assign someone on your team to stay on top of it. That way, you can become aware of trending stories and topics as soon as they hit.

In 2011, Kate Winslet rescued Richard Branson’s elderly mother from a fire, and the London Fire Brigade jumped at the chance to comment on it on social media. In a Facebook post, they offered to give Kate Winslet firefighter training as a reward for her good deed. The post was timely and served the purpose of the London Fire Brigade to educate others about fire safety.

In other words, when the news breaks that there’s been a recall of cat condos made of carpet–and your condo is made of environmentally-friendly recycled astroturf–you should be ready to go within minutes with all the facts journalists need to know about the different quality cat condo materials and how they affect pet health.

Plan and share content that leverages trending news stories

Once you’ve got a trending topic that fits well in your business, plan content around that story. It can be a blog post, a YouTube video, or even just a photo or graphic. Create the content quickly so you can be one of the first to post about it. Don’t worry about perfection– we are aiming for somewhere between serviceable and pretty darn good. Get it out there quick!

When trending topics hit, journalists are searching for relevant content so they can gather more information to share with their audiences. By being one of the first to post, you are serving the media by giving them good content to use. They serve you in turn by giving you good press. It’s symbiosis! Help your content be found by using relevant keywords and trending hashtags.

Charmin took advantage of the 2013 Academy Awards to tweet a staged photo of a woman walking on stage to accept an award with a piece of toilet paper stuck under her dress. They captioned it with a caution to the nominees. “Don’t forget to look down before your speech.” The company planned in advance to send this tweet while the topic of the Oscars was trending, and it paid off.

Be tactful

Sometimes trending news stories deal with tragedies or other sensitive topics. This is a minefield and trying to leverage these topics for business and press is not only distasteful but can also backfire and give your business negative press. Just take it from Kenneth Cole who, during the debate about U.S. involvement in Syria, tweeted, “Boots on the ground or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps, and loafers. #Footwear.”

Boots on the ground or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps, and loafers. #Footwear

No. Just no.

Rule of thumb, if you’ve got some really clever and catchy tie into a national tragedy, act of nature, or act of war… just write it in your journal and keep on moving.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t deal with serious and hard-hitting topics and stories though. Sometimes it’s helpful to lend your voice to a serious topic and journalists and audiences alike will appreciate your perspective.

Another good rule of thumb to follow is this: Make sure you’re adding value to the story and genuinely serving those affected by it, rather than just trying to get press.

Burger King used their social media platforms to add to the conversation about net neutrality. While the net neutrality repeal can’t be classed as a tragedy, it is a serious topic that many people feel passionate about.

Burger King created a video that explained net neutrality using the chain’s famous Whopper Burger as an analogy. The video was educational and a little funny, and it got coverage from most of the major news outlets.

Reach out to media

Once your content is crafted and shared, you don’t have to just sit back and wait for journalists to contact you. That’s a really weak strategy so let's get a little more proactive, shall we? After all, you just spent anywhere from 5 min to 2 hours developing content!

Now reach out to reporters on their social media profiles to let them know you have content that can help their developing news stories. Don’t pester them, but make sure they’re aware of what you can offer. This is especially successful when you have already established a relationship with the press through social media.

When you’re trying to get press for your business, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle to get other people to notice what you can offer. You may wonder why everyone in the world isn’t instantly recognizing your brilliance. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When trending topics hit, journalists are already actively searching for content to add to their reports. All you have to do is meet them halfway with high-quality, relevant content.


  • FINALLY… TRY NOT TO PROMOTE YOURSELF (even though you totally are).


Have you scored any media thanks to jumping on some breaking news or a trending topic?

Join our movement of entrepreneurs who are owning their authority and growing their influence. Share your story in our private facebook group and I may update this post with your exploits!



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