Why Banks Should Avoid Newsjerking

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A HubSpot blog post titled 5 Hurricane Sandy Newsjacks From Marketers contains the following passage:

“Newsjacking is the practice of capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to amplify your sales and marketing efforts. So what are some ways in which marketers have inserted themselves in the conversation about the hurricane? Here are some examples; but proceed with caution. It’s important to ensure you’re not coming across as exploiting a natural disaster in your marketing.”

The article goes on to suggest ways marketers can “newsjack” by using Pinterest, publishing blog posts, emails, and special offers.

My take: This is the stupidest marketing advice I’ve seen all month. And it’s the 30th, so I’ve had plenty of time to see a lot of bad marketing advice.

Smart investors (and managers, for that matter) understand the concept of the risk/return tradeoff. The higher the risk you take, the greater the return you should expect from that investment.

Smart marketers — i.e., those who understand the risk/return concept — will recognize that in a natural disaster situation like a hurricane, the risk of “coming across as exploiting the disaster” is very high. How can you possibly know how people will respond to your message, since you have no chance to test the response? How can you risk someone with a million followers retweeting you and painting you in a negative light?

And for what return? A fleeting moment of mindshare among some unspecified number of consumers? Or maybe some small number of product sales?

Is that return worth the risk? No.

There are only two allowable types of tweets during a natural disaster:

1. Need to know information. Tweets regarding business continuity status, branch or store closings, service numbers to call, etc.

2. Hopes and prayers. A tweet offering your hopes and prayers to people affected by the disaster is allowable, but in my humble opinion, borders on newsjacking.

Any other type of tweet or social media post risks being misinterpreted as taking advantage of the situation.


Other tweeters (i.e., non-marketers) should think twice about what they tweet. 

During the storm, as my house was getting hit with 50-60 mph winds, as I was thinking about how my brother in downtown NYC and sister on Long Island were doing, there was no shortage of tweets from folks about things like social media marketing best practices. 


If 90% of your followers are located in an area unaffected by the disaster, then maybe your social media tweets are acceptable. 

But when 50 million people (ok, I’m making that number up, I have no idea how many people there were in the path of the storm) are affected by some natural disaster, do you really think they’re sitting around following the twitter stream to read about your stupid social media marketing advice? 


Bottom line: Only newsjerks practice newsjacking. It’s a term that did not need to be coined, let alone have a book written about it. 

p.s. If you’re looking for a link to the HubSpot post, you’re not going to find it here. I’m not going to feed traffic to a site that offers crappy marketing advice about newsjacking. 

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