Jack Be Quick: Authority, Speed and Planning Keys to Successful Newsjacking

Ever since the Coca-Cola’s Mean Joe Green and Apple’s 1984 ads of the 1980s, the Super Bowl has become just as much about the commercials as the game itself. More recently, it has become the best practices equivalent of What Not to Wear for communicators given Groupon’s sloppy response to their confusing ads in 2011 or the political debate around Chrysler’s “Halftime in America” in 2012. Super Bowl XLVII however provided us with a shining example of smart, timely communications in action.

When the power went out for 35 minutes in the third quarter, Twitter and Facebook exploded. Savvy communicators successfully newsjacked the blackout with impressive results.

Oreo-TweetMost notable was Oreo, which tweeted out “Power out? No problem.” with a photo of an Oreo with the tagline “You can still dunk in the dark”. According to Digiday, as of Sunday night it was retweeted over 12,600 times, favorited nearly 4,000 times and on Facebook the photo received over 19,000 likes and 6,500 shares. Though true success requires Oreo to translate this into a hard business objective like increased sales or brand affinity, the return on investment of a hastily produced graphic has to be staggering compared to the $4 millon cost of a 30 second ad plus production costs.

While this happened because of a proactive and responsive communications team, they were only able to respond so quickly because management had empowered them to do so. All too often, process and bureaucracy prevent timely reaction to breaking opportunities. While process is important, it needs to be flexible enough to adapt. Here are some keys to successful newsjacking:

  1. Empower: Executive management need to give their communicators both responsibility and authority to act. Put the right people in place, trust them and they will constantly re-earn that trust with success.
  2. Watch: Constantly look for opportunities. Monitor news and trends. Follow reporters, news outlets and blogs that cover what’s important to you. Set up Google Alerts. Most importantly, be aware of what’s going on in the world in general. You can’t react to something if you don’t know it’s going on.
  3. Plan: While process shouldn’t hamper responsiveness, you can’t throw it to the wind either. Have a plan in place so that your team knows how to respond to opportunities. Management is more likely to trust you if they know you’re not just shooting from the hip. Oreo went as far to have their agency creative and strategy teams watch the game together with executives in the room, allowing for quick and decisive action.Assess whether you can respond quickly, if you should respond, and whether your audiences will care if you respond. If you answer no to any of these, don’t. You’ll only look bad. Gap’s tweet during Hurricane Sandy or tasteless tweets by Cooking Channel following bin Laden’s death or Kenneth Cole’s tweets about the Cairo uprisings are examples.
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