Newsjacking, Miley and the VMAs

news_megaphone_400_clr_9546Last week we were treated to (or maybe endured) an endless news cycle about Miley Cyrus’ twerking performance at the MTV VMA’s. Now interviews and articles will extend the buzz into this week and beyond.  

This is nothing new. It is  one of the ways pop culture publicity works. A celebrity makes news through outrageous acts on stage or in public, embarrassing candid photographs, leaked sex tapes, wardrobe malfunctions, etc.  

Then the “story” is kept alive with on-air, print and online coverage of fans and family reaction, headlines promising more shocking details, the artist’s exclusive true confession or defiant interviews and ultimately the announcement of the celebrity’s next big project…until the media spin cycle repeats itself with the next celeb.

The publicity, even negative commentary, keeps the awards show’s name in the news beyond the one night event and helps raise the talent's profile to sell more music, concert tickets, merchandise, magazines, TV shows… and the beat goes on.

The media gets a story; the VMA and artist get more attention for everything and anything they do within that “buzz” window of opportunity.

It’s also an opportunity for experts of all kinds to get their own 15-minutes in the media spotlight. Pitching a story or segment to tie your knowledge into what’s already making headlines is a time-honored publicity strategy known as riding the wave, coat tailing or piggybacking on breaking news. You pitch media people right at the point when they are scrambling for more angles for a sidebar story or second day story to augment their coverage. 

Online media provides a even more immediate opportunity because the news cycle is faster and attention spans are shorter. What used to be a second day story can co-exist with the main story on the Internet right away and anyone can be a part of it.

If you are looking for exposure through content marketing, you can capitalize on breaking news by “newsjacking,” which is real-time positioning of your tangentially-related information to leverage the media buzz and call attention to yourself and your business.  

For example, instead of pitching the media directly, you catch the wave online by using your own media expert platform to share your perspective in a clever blog post, tweet (twitter is especially good for this), a speech, quick video, etc., so the media will find you!

There's more to it, but that's the general idea. A doctor did just that when Angelina Jolie revealed she'd had a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer and got on local TV news because of it.

Recognize that  “newsjacking” is not a sure thing and can backfire. Do you REALLY want to be associated online (perhaps for all time) with that news story?  Plus it isn't easy to choose just the right news and move fast enough to strike while the iron is hot.

I don't personally obsess about the shenanigans of celebs, but many do, especially online. Even major news organizations talk about pop culture happenings like the plot of a new movie or the royal baby's birth. Stories like these may be openings you can plan for in advance to newsjack.

I would be careful about newsjacking disasters and tragedies. There's a fine line here, except for certain kinds of experts, where your shift in focus to what you do best might seem too off-topic self-serving or tasteless. 

Still, when it works (twerks?), you boost your visibility, increase traffic to your site, add valuable inbound links and get traditional media exposure when reporters discover your fabulous content and call YOU!

New Media Marketing PR Expert David Meerman Scott coined the phrase “Newsjacking” in an ebook he wrote a few years ago.  Use my link below to explore the technique more fully.


The following two tabs change content below.

Janet Vasil

On-Camera, Speaker & Media Coach/Trainer at Vasil Media Group | Your Media Moment & Beyond
Communication Coach, Media Trainer & Founder Janet Vasil is a former award-winning, EMMY®-nominated TV Journalist who helps rising and future business leaders communicate with courage and charisma on-camera, and off. Contact at

Latest posts by Janet Vasil (see all)