In the ever-growing competitive digital age, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to capture the attention of their target audience amidst the constant flow of online information. This has led to the emergence of newsjacking as a popular marketing tactic for anyone looking to boost their visibility, but is it ethical?

Newsjacking involves piggybacking on breaking news or trending stories to promote a brand, product or service, but with an increased interest in ethical marketing, more businesses are asking whether or not newsjacking is an acceptable practice. In this article, we’ll explore the ethical considerations of newsjacking and its impact on brand awareness, with a few interesting examples.

What is Ethical Marketing?

Before diving into the topic of newsjacking, it’s important to establish what ethical marketing means. Ethical marketing is the practice of promoting products or services in a transparent, honest, and socially responsible way. It involves ensuring that marketing messages and practices align with moral and ethical principles, such as fairness, honesty, and respect for consumers’ privacy and dignity.

In 2019, The Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report revealed some surprising information about the power of ethical marketing and how it affects the way a customer views a brand. Here are a few eye-opening facts from the report:

  • A whopping 78% of customers said that it was a deal-breaker for them when a brand prioritises profits over customer interests.
  • 67% of customers said that a good reputation made them try a new product or service, but without trust in the company, they wouldn’t purchase it again.
  • 81% of millennials believe that a successful brand must have a genuine purpose that resonates with people.

The statistics above show how important it is to cultivate trust, build a solid online reputation and ensure your content has a positive impact on society in order to be successful in your marketing efforts. Ethical marketing practices should focus on building long-term relationships with your customers based on mutual trust and respect rather than solely maximising profits. With this in mind, can newsjacking form part of your marketing strategy without alienating new and existing customers, or if done correctly, could it build rapport with your audience?

For more information on online reputation management, please read our blog: Grow Your Business With Online Reputation Management.

Is Newsjacking Unethical?

Newsjacking can form part of an effective marketing strategy whereby you leverage trending news stories to promote your brand and gain exposure. While it can be an effective way to increase your brand awareness, it also raises three ethical concerns:

  1. It can come across as insensitive and exploitative if not done tastefully. For example, if a business attempts to capitalise on a tragedy or crisis, it can be seen as inconsiderate and disrespectful to those affected.
  2. Newsjacking can spread misinformation or contribute to the spread of fake news. If your business uses a news story to promote your brand without verifying the accuracy of the information, it can damage your credibility and reputation.
  3. It can be seen as opportunistic and manipulative, which can ultimately backfire and harm the brand. Consumers are increasingly sceptical of businesses that prioritise profit over social responsibility and ethics.

While piggy-backing off a news article can be a powerful marketing tool, your business should approach it with caution and consider the ethical implications. It is important to ensure that the news story is relevant to your brand and that the message is delivered in a sensitive and truthful manner. Ultimately, your business should prioritise transparency, authenticity, and integrity in all its marketing efforts in order to avoid harbouring mistrust with customers.

Can Newsjacking Boost Your Brand Without Crossing the Line?

When done right, newsjacking can be an effective way to promote a brand without crossing ethical boundaries. This involves identifying relevant news stories that align with your brand values and offering a unique perspective or solution.

If you want to ensure your marketing efforts are ethical, there are three main guidelines that you should follow:

  1. Ensure that the story is relevant to your brand and your target audience.
  2. Make sure your post offers genuine value to your marketing strategy.
  3. Avoid using clickbait to drive interest.

Here is a list of the stories you should avoid at all costs:

  • War conflicts
  • Tragedies
  • Economic downturns
  • Climate disasters

The only exception to the rule is if your brand is uniquely positioned to offer an essential contribution to the conversation. This could include being an expert who can provide analysis or if you run a nonprofit that offers relief for those affected by the event.

Examples of Successful & Ethical Newsjacking

Calm and the US Elections

During the last US election, Calm, an app specialising in meditation and mindfulness, decided to sponsor the CNN election coverage. This move was made primarily to support their mission of ‘making the world happier and healthier’ at a time when viewers were feeling especially anxious.

In addition to its sponsorship, Calm ran 30-second ads both prior to and during Election Night. Rather than featuring political messaging, these ads aimed to provide relief from the stress associated with the results being shared.

The company reported that its campaign was incredibly successful; not only did they see an impressive return on investment, but it also led to a surge in organic growth as well as a buzz about the campaign on social media.

Orea and Area 51

When the Area 51 raid story went viral in the Autumn of 2019, Oreo joined in on the fun by tweeting, “What flavours do you think they’re hiding in #Area51?” – creating a huge response from thousands of users, as well as other brands!

Newsjacking | Oreo and Area 51

This was a great example of how a brand can effectively and quickly use trending topics to foster engagement, likeability and boost their image on social media. Not only did it get people talking about Oreo’s delicious flavour offerings, but it showed that newsjacking doesn’t have to be complicated or costly to make an impact.

How to Newsjack Ethically

When considering a newsjacking opportunity, it’s important to first understand the context and do some research. Do a quick keyword search related to your target news story to see what people are already talking about, and include the most popular phrases in your content to help boost Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Post quickly, but make sure your content is accurate and offers an original angle before going live on social media. Don’t just write a response to the news; create an original angle that ties in with one of your products, services, or current brand news and include a call to action. All posts should be organic extensions of your brand voice, vision, goals and audience interests.

Final Thoughts

Newsjacking can be a great way to engage users and grow your visibility, but it needs to be done ethically. It should not be used to capitalise on tragic events or other sensitive topics; instead, focus on news related to your business that you think will resonate with your target audience. By following the guidelines detailed above, you’ll be well on your way to using newsjacking as an effective tool for increasing engagement, brand visibility, and website traffic.

Do you need help cultivating trust with your audience and building a successful online reputation? WSI-eMarketing can help you build a successful online marketing strategy to help you build credibility and long-term relationships with your customers. Give us a call on 01453 542761 or request a free consultation.

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