Hijacking the news agenda for link building

Out of the many editorial link development tactics we use on a weekly basis, hijacking the news agenda is certainly one of the most challenging, but also one of the most exciting and potentially lucrative. Jumping onto a live story requires the team to keep a keen eye on the developing news agenda, spotting an opportunity for a client and then crafting a relevant response.

Our most recent news hijack is also one of our most successful to date and was on behalf of long time client, Ecclesiastical Insurance.

To provide a brief background, 70% of weddings are uninsured and when you consider that the average wedding costs £20,000, this is a huge financial investment not to cover.  Our client Ecclesiastical’s cover is famous for it’s ‘mix and match’ policy, that enables couples to personalise their insurance depending on the elements they are investing in.  Most wedding insurance covers a standard set of suppliers or circumstances so we’re always looking for opportunities to educate the target audience on Ecclesiastical’s offering. So when as a part of our daily scan of the news, we spotted wedding site confetti.co.uk possibly going into administration (22nd August), we jumped into action.

After a quick call to the client (who as a marketing veteran had similar ideas!), we agreed a plan of action.  To speed up approvals, the client’s internal PR team drafted a release for the offline media, which we were allowed to edit and tweak to work for our online contacts and include key anchor text (one of our targets for Ecclesiastical is to improve rankings for the key non-brand search term, ‘wedding insurance’).

As the release was being approved, we drew up a media list of key national and insurance media.

Selling in of the story began on 23rd of August, the day Confetti.co.uk actually went into administration and after our initial sell-in to our key media, we ‘followed the sun’ on the sell-in and handed the release over to the international news wires so it could be distributed to insurance and financial media across the world.

Although we were confident that we’d get some pick up, the response over the next two days was phenomenal. By the end of the week, we had secured 125 links from separate domains for the story – 98% of which featured our key non-brand anchor text, ‘wedding insurance’.  A fantastic result within an incredibly short space of time.

Even more exciting was the calibre of sites that picked up the story.  Yahoo! Finance, Marketwatch.com and the Fox news channel sites all ran our release, amongst many others.

Within the space of five days we had spotted a story, worked with a client’s online and offline marketing team to maximise the opportunity and secured 125 editorial links for key anchor text.  All in all, an exhausting, but exciting week for the Leapfrogg social media and content team, and more importantly a great result for the client.

Learn from the Froggers – News hijacking do’s and don’ts:

So how can you replicate this success? Well, here are a few pointers for both agencies and clients to consider in making this work:

Do read and watch the news…like a hawk!:

Opportunities can pop up at any time, but certain types of brands will always find something to jump on at certain times of the year.  For example, retail brands should always be looking to comment around traditional sales times or seasonal peaks. Travel brands should keep an eye out in the run up to summer – airline strikes give you good opportunities to be the consumer champion, for example.

Do agree a plan of action or process well in advance:

Stories will always need to be turned around quickly – often same day – before the news agenda changes again, so prepare as much templated information and discuss the agency / client processes well before any opportunity arises.  Who would draft the release? Who would approve it?  If key contacts are on holiday, who makes the decisions? And if the media need quotes, images or case studies urgently, who is the go-to to source the collateral you don’t already have to hand?

Understand that the media is a fickle mistress!:

Sometimes today’s news can most definitely be tomorrow’s chip paper – understand that and appreciate that if you don’t give the media what they want and when they want it, you’ll lose the opportunity.  Conversely (and perversely!) some stories can run and run.  It’s difficult for the news editors themselves to predict what’s going to happen next, so appreciate that your agency will not be able to anticipate the twists and turns of a story.  In this way, trust your team to sell in when they think it’s right and to be real consultants to your client and advise you when it’s time to give up.

Enjoy it!

News hijacking is fast and furious, but when it works like it has done for us this occasion, it is one of the most rewarding tools that we keep on ice in our little link development pond here at Leapfrogg.

If you have any similar experiences, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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