Danger: Avoid Newsjacking Negative Stories

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Worst Practices  |  Public Relations  |  Newsjacking

General_Mills.jpgIt’s happened again. A well-known brand has tried to piggyback off a tragedy. Yesterday, General Mills’ tribute to Prince is another example of newsjacking gone bad.

Like American Apparel (newsjacking Hurricane Sandy to pimp a sale), AT&T (newsjacking the anniversary of 9/11 to promote their mobile phone plans), and many others, General Mills use of a Cheerio as the dot of the “i” of their purple “Rest in peace” graphic as shared on Twitter yesterday has been widely seen as in poor taste.

Yes, Prince is from Minnesota as is General Mills, but that tie was not strong enough to promote cereal on the back of somebody’s untimely death. The company removed the tweet from it’s feed according to the Wall Street Journal who got the screenshot I’m using here.

“As a Minnesota brand, Cheerios wanted to acknowledge the loss of a musical legend in our hometown,” said Mike Siemienas, manager of brand media relations at General Mills, in a statement as quoted in the Wall Street Journal. “But we quickly decided that we didn’t want the tweet to be misinterpreted, and removed it out of respect for Prince and those mourning.”

You must have a legitimate tie to a negative story

Yes, I realize that my pointing to this example could be considered newsjacking and it could be argued that I am exploiting the story too. I want to acknowledge that. However, as the founder of the newsjacking movement, perhaps I bear some responsibility for popularizing the concept of Newsjacking so I wanted to jump in here.

It is always best to avoid a negative story unless your company has a legitimate tie to the news.

For example, Mitch Jackson, a California trial lawyer, comments on legal aspects of news to grow influence. Sometimes he comments on negative stories but he can do so because he is adding value for people to understand what is happening. As a lawyer, he has a tie to legal stories. 

To succeed at newsjacking—or fend off a newsjack—you must be prepared to act within the hour, day, night, or weekend. And that entails risk. Your shot on goal may open up at the end of a long day when you are tired and irritable, or when you have had one too many drinks.

Newsjacking - the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to generate tons of media coverage, get sales leads, and grow business – is indeed powerful. But you need to balance the need to be quick and bold with the imperative to be in tune.

Hat Tip to Professor Taxi for alerting us to this story.

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