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How do you reach media-savvy students and alumni who are used to scrolling past banner ads, swiping past mobile social ads and skipping commercials on YouTube? By reaching them through whatever news they’re viewing anyway. That’s newsjacking, and it’s how savvy marketers get their brands in on trending news and conversations without making their own from scratch.

Put more formally, newsjacking is the practice of inserting your brand in a story or conversation that’s already trending. It can be as simple as tweeting a post with a trending hashtag or as involved as having an expert from your institution weigh in on a Facebook live discussion.

Here are some tips you can use to make newsjacking work for you:

1. Keep your experts connected.

Just keeping your faculty ready to chime in on trending news is a good start.

When astronomers spotted the birth of a three-star solar system last October, there’s a good chance many college-aged science enthusiasts spotted this story about it on The Verge. Even though University of Massachusetts Amherst assistant professor Stella Offner “was not involved in the study,” her quote in the story still helped readers better understand it. It also helped the University of Massachusetts get mentioned in exactly the kind of story a potential applicant might read.

2. Bring your own angle.

For a good news hack, you also must provide your own angle. The more interesting you can make your contribution to the conversation, the more success you will have.

Tulane University, for example, recognized the end of daylight saving time as the perfect opportunity to promote the work of one of its leading sleep researchers. Along with reminding followers to fall back, its Nov. 6 tweet links to a list of sleep tips from Dr. David Blask, which in turn links to a story from when he was featured in a Canadian Broadcast Company documentary.

3. Be timely.

Like all content marketing, newsjacking takes creativity, finesse and good timing. You can’t make your angle on a topic viral when the topic itself is old news.

While the Zika virus was all over the news, Florida State University published its breakthrough in drug research. The best newsjacking happens with topics that are already being discussed.

4. Watch out for controversy.

Just because you have a topical, clever idea doesn’t mean you should always put it out there. Newsjacking can easily backfire when sensitive topics are involved. 

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you find yourself spending a lot of time weighing the positive effect of getting involved in a story against the potential fallout, it might be best to stay away. And as always, remember to think about how your message will come off to the students or alumni you want to receive it.


Questions about content marketing for your college or university? Learn more today.

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