Newsjacking 101: A beginner’s guide to reactive PR

In the fast-paced world of PR and comms, building your brand, staying relevant and engaging with your audience requires getting your messaging out there consistently and prominently.

There are tons of great tactics to get your brand in the media like commissioning your own research, submitting thought leadership articles, and sharing your own company announcements (when it is genuinely newsworthy!). But these activities all take time to execute and see the rewards.

For quick, high-profile, and impactful coverage, one tactic reigns supreme. Enter reactive PR, often referred to as ‘newsjacking’, a strategic approach to media relations that leverages current affairs and breaking news to amplify your brand’s messaging.

What is newsjacking?

Newsjacking in PR is the practice of issuing comments on breaking news stories.

It can be a great way to secure coverage for your business. For one, journalists are already writing about these events, and often looking for experts to offer their insights into what their stories mean for a particular audience. It is also an ideal way of aligning your brand with particular issues, whether that is the state of the economy, government policy or environmental crises.

However, while it’s undoubtedly effective, getting strong results with reactive PR is no cakewalk. Competition is tough, and only the most insightful, timely comments make the cut when journalists write up their articles.

For beginners just dipping their toes into the waters of reactive commentary, here are a few tips to improve your chances of success…

  1. Select the right opportunities

Firstly, not every news story will be the right fit for newsjacking. Forcing connections between your brand and major news stories can feel disingenuous, and hammering a square peg into a round hole is something both journalists and your audience will see right through.

So, it’s important to choose events that are relevant and authentic to your brand or message and where your commentary can genuinely add value. Looking for stories that are well aligned with your brand’s values and expertise, therefore, is a must.

With that in mind, be aware of the sensitivity of certain topics when considering whether to weigh into the conversation. After all, showing integrity is as important to brand reputation as it is to our personal values, and that means respecting the gravity of sensitive events and avoiding exploiting them for promotional purposes.

  • Language is power

Giving a creative flair to your comments is key, as your brand’s voice and tone will need to be distinct and powerful to get a journalist’s attention. As noted, journalists will receive dozens – hundreds, perhaps – of comments from brands offering their two pence when a major story breaks; a bland quote from your CEO will quickly be discarded in favour of a competitor who has a clear point to make and makes it well.

Punchy, impactful language goes a long way in crafting a memorable comment that drives home your brand’s message – so long as the overall tone remains consistent with the position of your brand. As an example, when data comes out showing that food prices are still rising, rather than saying “this is bad news for consumers”, consider something like “this is yet another gut punch for shoppers everywhere”.

  • Say something important

If you say what everyone else is saying – or worse, speak for the sake of speaking – few will listen.

Think about what you have to say that offers a unique perspective or insight into the situation and strive to add real value to your audience through your commentary. This can mean offering expert analysis into the issue, practical advice, or innovative solutions related to the news event.

To ensure a brand has a clear angle to approach a news story from, it’s important that a comms team (or agency) has a strategy in place. You must know ahead of time where you – as an organisation and the people within it – stand on important issues. That way, when a major story breaks, you already know what message you want to push out; you just need to craft it to the specifics of that particular event.

  • Timing is key

The best-crafted, most insightful comment ever written will still fail to produce results if the timing isn’t right.

Following a major news event, journalists will scramble to cover the story, and your commentary needs to be on hand to make the cut.

So, while you want to ensure you’ve got all the facts straight before weighing in ensure your brand’s insight is thoughtful and well-supported, being quick off the mark is crucial.

At CRC, we will often write reactive PR comments ahead of time – for instance, when we know the Bank of England is meeting to vote on interest rates but it is unclear what the outcome will be, we will create one comment for each outcome (rise, fall, hold), ensuring we can distribute our clients’ comments the minute the Bank announces its decision.

It might be called reactive PR, but proactivity and timing is everything.

  • Monitor and adapt

With that, keeping your finger on the pulse at all times is a must if you want to seize the best reactive opportunities.

Continuously monitoring news trends in your industry and keeping an eye on important upcoming events will help you build a strong long-term newsjacking strategy and establish your brand as a go-to authority in your sector. Top tip: create a calendar of upcoming events (government announcements, awareness days, data and report publications) so you are ready to jump on the stories that are likely to dominate any given day or week.

It’s time to get started

Ultimately, great newsjacking and reactive commentary comes down to this: say something punchy, insightful, and valuable, and say it quick – so, keep your eyes peeled for that next big opportunity.

Happy newsjacking!

Georgina McBride

Account Executive

About the author

Georgina joined the agency as a Communications Executive in September 2022, with clients spanning property, fintech and technology. Prior to this, she graduated with a degree in French at the University of Edinburgh, where she developed an interest in technology and communications while interning at a Parisian startup during her year abroad.


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Meet the City Road Comms team: Scott Rimell

Scott Rimell joined City Road Comms (CRC) in late 2021, having taken an interesting path after leaving school. Time spent teaching English in China and Indonesia was followed by an English Language and Linguistics degree at Sheffield University, which was followed by a post-grad course in Politics and Media.

Coming on board as a communications executive, Scott was largely new to the world of PR and comms when he joined CRC. But in the two-and-a-half years since, he’s progressed seamlessly, particularly in establishing himself in the personal finance space – Scott works across several of CRC’s consumer-facing financial services clients, including an independent financial adviser and one of the UK’s leading digital banks.

In this blog, Scott sheds a little more light on his journey into PR and comms as well as reflecting on his time at CRC so far.

What attracted you to work in PR and communications?

Coming out of university, I found myself faced with the common post-graduate conundrum of, “Uhm what now?”. While confident that I wanted to put the research and writing skills that I’d picked up through my English Language and Linguistics degree to good use, I wasn’t exactly sure where to jump in. After a little digging into the world of PR and comms, I soon realised that this was an area where I could not only flex those skills but also but also satisfy my need to keep up with what’s going on around the world.

In the end, the mix of strategising, working within different sectors, problem-solving, and the occasional high-pressure situation felt like the right fit for my style of working

What do you enjoy about working at City Road Comms?

I would have to say the team. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic people at CRC. Each member of the team adds their own professional touch, unique experiences, and strengths, making the process of generating new ideas much more enjoyable.

We may be a small team but when we collaborate there’s never any shortage of great ideas. And when it comes to starting a new campaign or moving onto a new account, I know I’ve got solid support to lean on.

Describe your job in three words?

Reading the news.

What achievement are you most proud of since being with the agency?

In the lead up to and following last year’s Spring Budget, we achieved an excellent range of national and broadcast media coverage for a B2C personal finance client, including several radio appearances. Given how hugely competitive political announcements like the Budget are from a PR perspective, it was a rewarding campaign – it showed that we got everything right in terms of messaging, timing, and being on the pulse of the political and economic situation in the country at the time.

What is the last book you read or listened to?

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory. It’s a collection of absurdist short stories by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, who also created the show BoJack Horseman. Some of the stories are more interesting than others but altogether it’s a very witty and entertaining series with a good mix of tragedy, romance and dark humour.

What are you most likely to be found doing outside of work?

On a walk exploring the pubs and food of an area of London I’ve not been to yet.

Scott Rimell

Account Executive

About the author

Scott joined the City Road Comms team as a Communications Executive at the end of 2021. Prior to this he gained a degree in English language and linguistics and a Masters in politics and media from the University of Sheffield, after a period of time working in the ESL industry.


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