Market your invention through PR that ties in to current events
Great publicists will always be looking for things in the news that make your product or invention reportable.
BY ALYSON DUTCH
Many people know that a lumberjack is a fashion inspiration for men’s flannel shirts, and the flapjack is a Sunday morning favorite with a good cup ’o Joe. But if you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve never heard of a newsjack, it’s worth exploring.
In April, the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences graced the film “Sound of Metal” with six Oscar nominations. The movie, about a rock ‘n’ roll drummer who loses his hearing, was a reason to connect Fardad Zabetian’s (Inventors Digest cover story, April 2021) multilingual SaaS KUDO videoconferencing that features a drop-down menu of 147 sign languages to news stories after the Oscar telecast.
So before the Sunday cultural celebration, our company prepared a pitch featuring a list of “did you know” factoids about how many Americans and global citizens are deaf, how many sign languages there are in the world, and how KUDO was helping to change the face of global business for deaf people. We sent it to all the journalists who write about global business and to the entertainment press we knew would be covering the Oscars.
One of the reporters I know who does entertainment reporting for the Los Angeles NBC-TV station wrote back, thanking us for facts he could use in his pre- and post-Oscar reporting. He then introduced me to Marlee Marlin’s executive producer. For those of you who don’t know, she’s a famous deaf actress who was on the Oscar telecast signing for all the “Sound of Metal” nominations.
It turned out that KUDO was looking for a community leader to expand its sign language services, so we were pleased to connect the company with Marlee.
That’s called a newsjack!
Commercial vs. newsworthy
Newsjacking.com defines the process as “the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.” In 2017, newsjacking was one of Oxford Dictionaries’ “Words of the Year.”
Good newsjacking begins with understanding what’s newsworthy—and what’s not.
A product is a commercial entity, something the press will not naturally report about because it is, well, not a story.
To a reporter, a product is something that should be marketed with advertising (read: banner ads, TV, radio, influencer buys—placements that are guaranteed because you pay for them). But when you find something in the news as a tie-in, that is when your product becomes relevant and reportable in an unbiased, objective way.
If you do not have a budget for a PR agency, learning how to do this is probably some of the best advice I could give you. If you have budgeted for an agency, now you know how to interview to find the right one. Great publicists will always be looking for things in the news that make your product or invention reportable.
Keep up with the news
Here’s another example.
For a company called Beam (formerly Envision Solar, led by November 2019 Inventors Digest cover subject Desmond Wheatley, which makes solar-powered EV chargers), one of the most important pieces of marketing now is the fact that the Biden Administration is focused on clean energy initiatives. In fact, the White House has been specifically and publicly talking about supporting EV charging technology.
When Beam connects its product to this initiative, every bit of marketing it does—from sales to publicity—is provided with the borrowed credibility of presidential preference. For the press, Beam’s products are suddenly natural to include in its reporting.
Now, that is powerful (pardon the pun).
As product launch specialists, our company works with entrepreneurs. For the companies we introduce to our little black book of reporters through a matchmaking service we call Consumer Product Events, we help them to newsjack their products before we make those introductions.
The best way to find newsjacks is, of course, to read the news. The larger story it is, the better chance you have of tying it together in a way that’s truly newsworthy.
What if you don’t fit?
What if your product does not fit into these larger news stories?
Start looking for holidays, and what I call “months du jour.” Examples of this might be that you make ties or cufflinks, which are traditional Father’s Day gifts, so June Dad’s Day gift guides make it newsworthy.
If you make sparkling wine, champagne, Italian prosecco or a brachetto, New Year’s celebrations are the No. 1 newsworthy time for that type of product, followed by Christmas and Thanksgiving.
It may be that you make a handmade luxury ceramic pet dish, so National Pet Month in May is a time to be looking for publicity. You sweeten the publicity angle with anything cause-related, so if you connect your pet dish product to the Guide Dog Foundation to raise money for it, as Kym Gold (January 2021 Inventors Digest cover) of Style Union Home did, you’re off to a great start!
Another way to create a newsjack is to look for studies, trends and statistics that make it relevant.
For a client who made a product called Pillpanion that organized pills for elderly people, our company suggested that she find statistics about the dangers of elderly people accidentally overmedicating. We bolstered that story by finding statistics about how many older people there are in the United States and how overwhelming of an issue it could become.
Maybe the best way to know whether something is newsworthy is to notice what is being talked about—which includes hashtags on social media.
Newsjacking is an important skill to master. Learn it. Do it. Become an instant master publicist.