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Newsjacking #2: How to decide to capitalize on a viral story

It’s nearly a universal truth: advocacy organizations want their messages to go viral. The reason is quite simply that stories that go viral get seen by more people than those that don’t. To reach and engage all current stakeholders, and to extend a conversation’s reach to begin engaging new influencers, a viral story is the way to go.

The trouble is that reaching viral status is a tall order. Most stories, ideas, threads, and comments just won’t attain the viral nirvana that advocacy professionals desire.

So what can be done to reach a broader audience, attracting more momentum for your specific issue advocacy efforts?

There are three options:

  1. Stop trying. You’ll never ascend the viral plateau anyway (we don’t think this is a good idea, but it is an option).
  2. Keep plugging away, sending your messages into the digital and social media ether. You may not see any of your outreach activities go viral, but at least you’ll remain active and you might even grow your audience.
  3. Newsjack. Ride the coattails of trending topics and conversations, gently adding your issue as a related thread.

Newsjacking essentially lets you borrow momentum, in order to increase visibility of your advocacy message. But there are some things to consider, and some specific tactics to employ.

First up, you need to decide what ‘media moment’ to newsjack. There are a number of tools to help you find potential newsjacking media moments.  

After you’ve established your method of listening and selecting news targets to capitalize on, you’ll need a process for decision-making. Below is a list of questions that to help you make a go/no-go decision.

list of questions to help decide to newsjack a viral story

Next, think like a management consultant and use the following 2-by-2 matrix to define your organization’s level of comfort leveraging a particular media-moment.

two-by-two matrix for level of newsjacking comfort

If you reach a ‘go’ decision, and you’re in an acceptable comfort quadrant, then you have successfully identified a newsjacking opportunity.

Now, you just need to execute.

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