The Negative Effects of Newsjacking

If you haven’t heard the term before, newsjacking is simply piggybacking your ideas on trending news topics.

When done correctly, this is a powerful way to have your ideas and message spread past your immediate sphere of influence. When done incorrectly, your organization could lose followers, damage your brand, and ultimately come off as complete jerks.

As a rule a thumb: you should never newsjack a trending news story that is about natural disasters, loss of life, or other tragic stories. I’m not sure what the people behind the brands are thinking when they choose to newsjack one of these types of stories. In fact, I’m surprised that it still happens.

But unfortunately, it does. Scott Stratten (a.k.a. UnMarketing) shared this photo on his Facebook page:


Why does it happen?

I ask myself this question every time I see another example. I’ve narrowed it down to a few possible answers:

  • people don’t understand the tool
  • people are selfish
  • people are stupid
  • people don’t think before their post

How to avoid this

There is only way to avoid this:

Don’t take advantage of anyone’s misfortune for your own gain.

If you feel a need to say something, simply offer condolences and leave it a that.

What if we screw up?

If a mistake is made, don’t attempt to deny, hide, or ignore the issue. Don’t assume that deleting it will make it go away – it won’t.

I suggest you do delete the offending post, not to protect yourself (the damage is done), but out of respect to those the story is about. Once you delete the post, apologize. Immediately. Not hours or days after and it’s better if you can apologize on your own, not after you’re called out on it. Don’t just give a hollow apology, but own up to your mistake and sincerely apologize.

Doing this won’t undo the damage, but it might make you look like less of a douchebag. KW Social Media tried:


From what I read on Twitter, the apology came a little too late – like four days after the tweet was sent.  If I were you, I wouldn’t try trust your social media activities to an agency that could make this big of a royal screw-up.

There is a right way

Like I mentioned earlier, newsjacking can be done effectively, producing positive results. Check out this post from the Content Marketing Institute.

What do you think? Is newsjacking a waste of time? Share your comments below.