Reactive digital PR, often referred to as newsjacking, is an increasingly popular tactic that search marketers are including in their digital PR strategy to build links, gain coverage, and join the conversation at pace. It’s about being in the moment, and finding relevant opportunities to create quick campaigns for your brand that journalists love to cover.
This PR tactic is solely focused on reacting to what’s happening in the world right now. The best digital PRs are glued to the news to pinpoint breaking stories and stuck to Twitter feeds to spot a journalist sending out a commentary request, like Commissioner Gordon calling out to Batman with a bat signal (remember, not all PRs wear capes).
As the popularity of this tactic has grown, so has the competition. More and more brands are adopting reactive, and now journalists’ inboxes are littered with pitches from digital PRs, around the same topics, in a race to be the first brand to react. You need to be extremely quick and creative to stand out and gain coverage with your reactive PR campaigns, and the campaign should always remain relevant to your brand.
The difference between reactive and proactive digital PR
Reactive digital PR is often referred to as newsjacking, but in reality newsjacking is either reactive or proactive.
Proactive digital PR is planned in advance, you’re looking ahead to find key dates and events to centre your campaigns around, such as; seasonal holidays, big sports events, seasons, movie & TV releases, festivals, award shows and awareness days.
With reactive PR, usually there isn’t any planning ahead, as news stories tend to be unexpected.
How to spot reactive opportunities
Here are six things to keep in mind when searching for reactive digital PR ideas:
1. Monitor the news
Pay very close attention to news outlets, and be on the lookout for breaking stories that you can link to your brand, product, category or industry. Make a list of publications with stories that tend to be relevant to your brand, and check in on these regularly and consistently.
2. Keep an eye out for Twitter requests
It’s no secret that Twitter is a marketer’s best friend – the platform is littered with constant 140 character updates with insights, tips, hacks – and in this case requests from journalists and PRs. To find the requests, check out the hashtags #journorequest and #prrequest. To focus your search even further, combine this with industry keywords to find those writers already covering your topics of focus. Reaching out to these types of requests has landed us links in publications like Evening Standard, Women’s Health and Express.
Here’s an example of a request we spotted to create a quick campaign:
3. Slide through socials
If you’re a social media power user, you can beat news outlets to a story before it’s even had the chance to break out in the press. For example a celebrity might announce an engagement on Instagram Stories, or a CEO might release financial figures on LinkedIn.
A big platform for inspiring our reactive ideas is TikTok, it’s given birth to a ton of recent trends, and it’s popularity is growing by the second. We’ve had a lot of success with TikTok inspired campaigns, and love it so much we decided to write a blog with our top tips on how to create reactive TikTok campaigns.
Another site we keep going back to is Pinterest Trends. The homepage showcases trends with high growth in search volume over the last 7 days, and there’s also an option to search by keyword to find; related trends, searches over time, and popular pins – so there’s a ton of inspiration to uncover.
4. Use a dedicated tool
There aren’t enough hours in the day to constantly scan and refresh platforms searching for requests, especially if you’re working on your own in-house, juggling multiple tasks, so you’re going to need to work smart. The good news is there are plenty of tools out there that will deliver these requests directly to your inbox, the bad news is that sometimes they come at a cost. We recommend checking out Response Source, HARO or Source Bottle.
5. Utilise search tools
Interested in what people are searching for, and where they’re searching from? Head over to Google Trends – the search giant’s free tool is a great way of viewing interest, annual increase or decrease, and interest by location. It enables you to compare search terms, like ‘apples’ and ‘oranges’ for example.
Google Trends doesn’t share metrics like search volume however (just popularity on a scale of 0-100), to include these insights in your story we’d recommend Semrush, it’s one of our go-to tools when collecting data for our campaigns.
6. Set up Google Alerts
Get an alert in your inbox every single time your brand, topic or keyword is mentioned with Google Alerts. You can adjust the frequency between weekly, daily, and as-it-happens. You can also choose the source – blogs, news, web etc. It’s completely free to use and a great way of keeping your ear to the ground.
Examples of reactive digital PR campaigns
fourfive – Stairmaster
We leveraged a rising TikTok trend to create a story for our client, fourfive
Our campaign landing page is now fourfive’s third highest by entry traffic and second highest for clicks with 1,830 in the last six months and 26,299 impressions
The landing page has attributed 15% of total email sign ups since launch
The blog is outranking TikTok to rank No.1 for ‘TikTok stairmaster workout’
HelloFresh – Custard Toast
We spotted a viral TikTok food trend – Custard Toast, and created a reactive campaign for our client HelloFresh
Our quick campaign gained 14 pieces of coverage including Cosmopolitan, Huffpost, Hypebae and Yahoo! The sites had an average DA of 69
The story raked in an estimated 167,000 views, and received 223 engagements on social media
N.Peal – Yellow Clothing
After spotting a number of celebrities including Kate Middleton and Anne Hathaway wearing yellow to events, we looked at search data to see if there was a story and found a campaign opportunity for our fashion client, N.Peal
Our quick reactive gained 9 pieces of coverage including Daily Mail
The story received an estimated 347,000 views
Our top tips
You’ve seen a few examples of our successful campaigns and should now have a better idea of how reactive works. But before you rush into building your own, we recommend taking some time to read our five quick tips:
1. Create a dedicated reactive team
Divide and conquer by building a dedicated team around you. Choose a few publications, products, or categories for each of you to focus on. You’ll struggle to cover everything as a one man band, so creating a team is essential.
2. Host a recurring meeting
Bring your team together regularly to discuss your findings – are there any stories about to break that you should prepare for?
These meetings are all about forecasting, so if a story breaks in between meetings and you have a campaign idea for it, don’t bother holding it back and start building your story – as we keep hammering home, reactive is all about speed.
3. Adopt a speedy sign off process
If you’re not quick enough to find a reactive opportunity, create a story around it and start pitching out to journalists before the rest of the hungry PRs out there, you’ll either miss the boat entirely with a story that’s old news, or there’ll be no space left in the publication for you.
Manage upwards in your business, get your stakeholders onside and bought into reactive campaigns. They need to give you their trust and let you crack on if you have any chance of winning with this tactic. A lengthy sign-off process won’t work for these types of campaigns.
4. Be true to your brand
Don’t create a story for the sake of it, whatever story you choose to reactive to, has to be relevant to your brand, without a link it just won’t make any sense.
5. Find an internal spokesperson
Having someone in your business that can act as an expert or ambassador is a great way of adding extra weight and authority to your stories. Journos prefer stories that are backed up with expert commentary, so start thinking about who could be the representative in your business – it might even be you!
One last thing
If you’re interested in learning more about our digital PR services, then get in touch with us today. We have the experience needed to take your business to the next level and maximise your online performance.