Squid Game, road signs and why you should consider newsjacking

Everyone in our team is talking about Squid Game.

And we are not alone. The Korean drama seems to have quickly taken the world by storm.

It has become Netflix’s biggest ever series launch, attracting 11m viewers in the first month.

Additionally, it has provided a brilliant example of newsjacking – something we often talk about during our media training as a way of gaining media coverage and attention when you don’t have much to talk about.

Thames Valley Police secured widespread media coverage this week after posting a tweet reassuring motorists that a mysterious road sign was not directing people to Squid Game.

The sign, on the M4 in Slough, features the same square, circle and triangle shapes used by those who run the deadly games in the programme.

The tweet has led to stories in the Daily Mail, BBC News, ITV and Lad Bible, among many others:

Don't turn here for Squid Game! Police joke that roadworks diversion sign looks like directions to join Netflix TV hit Daily Mail

Squid Game: Police reassure motorists over M4 road sign BBC News

It's a diversion... NOT Squid Game, police warn as new road sign appears ITV

Police Reassure Drivers M4 Signage Will Not Lead To Squid Game Lad Bible

At the time of writing, it features in the top 10 most-read stories on the BBC News website.

So, what can we learn from this?

Well, it is a reminder of the opportunities that exist for organisations to secure coverage and keep themselves in the news simply by keeping an eye on current events and trends.

This is typically referred to as newsjacking (sometimes as piggybacking).

It is something we cover in more detail in our Identifying Media-Friendly Stories online course.

And there are different ways to do it.

It can be as simple as joining in the conversation on social media with a bit of humour. Particularly if you can add something unusual. As we tell delegates on our training courses, journalists and their audiences love the unexpected – like police talking about Squid Game.

Sometimes it can be more of an orchestrated publicity stunt. There was an excellent example of this earlier this year when Madame Tussauds removed Harry and Megan from its wax display of the Royal family after that interview with Oprah Winfrey so many people were talking about.

Harry and Meghan waxworks moved away from Royals at Madame Tussauds Metro

Removed from royal display, Meghan and Harry waxworks join Madame Tussauds' 'party zone' CNN

HARRY & MEG'S WAX-IT Harry and Meghan’s waxworks moved away from other royals at Madame Tussauds The Sun

Sometimes newsjacking can be much more subtle, serious and niche. For example, it could be as simple as offering an opinion on a current hot topic in your sector or beyond that would help journalists move the story forward and create a new angle.

Another option is to put some quotes together on a particular topic and send it to some of your media contacts, offering them interviews.

 

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So, should newsjacking be part of your media strategy?

We think it is a good option.

Having a good understanding of what is on the news agenda and what is dominating popular culture is crucial.

Keep an eye on what people are talking about and what is trending on social media. But also think now about the sorts of topics and issues your organisation would be willing to talk about and begin to track them so you can act quickly when they are in the media spotlight.

But there are risks.

Newsjacking works best when it is quick. Being topical is a vital factor in what makes something newsworthy, and it forms the first part of the TRUTH acronym we use on our media training courses to explain what journalists are looking for in a story.

But topical only lasts so long. People and conversations move on. And that adds pressure to select the right issues to discuss – another reason to consider in advance the types of subjects that are relevant to your organisation.

Humour can be a significant feature of successful newsjacking. But there have been plenty of examples of humour backfiring and causing offence, particularly in social media. Get it wrong, and your newsjacking efforts could quickly turn into a reputation management battle.

So, it is worth running through a checklist with a colleague before you join the conversation:

  • Has anyone else seen the content – how did they react?
  • Could people be offended by the post?
  • Is this right for our audience?
  • Will the audience think what you think?
  • Will people understand the humour?

Are there other ways to gain media coverage when you don’t have any obvious news?

Well, we have a few more tips from our media training courses.

 

Improve your news gathering

Some of the best stories happen as the workforce goes about its day-to-day activities.

These are typically spontaneous events and can easily be missed unless there are media-aware colleagues on the ground who have an understanding of what makes a news story or excellent social media post.

The Thames Valley Police Squid Game post was created by one of its roads policing officers – not the corporate comms team. You can tell by the shoulder number featured at the end of the post.

It is a strategy that not only helps the force to gain coverage with unusual and amusing stories, but also helps to humanise policing and show a lighter side to its work.

 

Data

Journalists love data, and it can be a great way of gaining coverage during quieter times.

The data could come from a survey you have created that has resulted in interesting or unusual insight.

It could come from metrics you already record and that you are comfortable sharing externally.

You can even re-purpose data that is already out there.

For example, we have sometimes used Ofcom’s Media Consumption statistics or the Edelman Trust Barometer figures as a hook in our blogs.

Not only do data-driven stories help gain coverage, but they can also help position the organisation as a leader in its field.

 

People

As well as capturing potential stories as they go about their work, it is worth remembering that national business journalists and trade publications are often looking for people to feature and talk about their careers.  

These might be ‘day in the life of…’ type articles or profile pieces.

For this to be successful, the people you put forward need to have a compelling story to tell and be willing to share personal examples, anecdotes and stories.

 

Editorial

Bylined articles - an article that features the author's name and is submitted to a publication as a finished opinion piece - are another great way of generating coverage, building visibility and showcasing expertise.

Perhaps there is a big issue in your industry you could write about. You may want to talk about the impact of a new government policy, or maybe there is a particular cause you want to highlight.

Whatever the issue, your article needs to move the story forward from what is already known and offer some fresh insight.

You also need to avoid it sounding like an advertisement if you are going to get it published.

But do some research first. Some publications will want regular contributors, for example, rather than one-off articles.

 

On diary

As well as the breaking news stories, there are also many annual events - usually referred to as 'on-diary' events in newsrooms - you can use as a hook to offer your insights and gain coverage. 

And it is not just the obvious things like Christmas, Easter and Halloween.

You may, for example, have experts who could provide insight into the impact of the latest government budget, spending review, or policy decision.

There’s also an endless supply of ‘awareness’ days, weeks and months. October, for example, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Black History Monty and National Cholesterol Month, and it contains National Work Life Week, National Pension Tracing Day and National Cheese Toastie Day.

 

And on that note, it is time to fire up the toastie maker and settle down for a few episodes of Squid Game.

About to face the media? Get your media interview homework off to the best start by downloading your copy of our free media interview preparation eBook.

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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