Three examples of newsjacking gone bad

Newsjacking Guide.jpgNewsjacking, the art of latching on to an emerging trending story, can be a powerful tool in generating coverage of yourself, your business or your clients. But, as some companies have painfully learned, it doesn’t always go according to plan.

Before using the newsjacking technique, be sure to take what we call a “sensitivity second.” Just because you’ve prepared and identified an opportunity to newsjack, that doesn’t always mean you should take the next step to execute the plan.

Step back, take a second and think about the ramifications for your brand of inserting it in the conversation. Is this going to alienate any of your customers? Will your social media followers give it the stink eye? If you think there’s even a remote chance your message will be viewed as overly opportunistic at the expense of others, chances are you should reconsider trying to newsjack the story.

Sometimes the best way to learn is to look at the past mistakes of others, so here are three examples of newsjacking gone bad. Hopefully you’ll be able to avoid similar pitfalls yourself.

Kenneth Cole causes an uproar

When Egypt erupted into chaos back in 2011 due to protests over the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak, it made worldwide news. The very serious situation led to weeks of unrest and hundreds of deaths.

Fashion designer Kenneth Cole decided to take advantage of the breaking news when millions of Egyptians were shown on television protesting. The company posted a tweet from the brand’s account saying “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online…” After being hammered with negative feedback and having fake accounts mock the post, Cole eventually apologized and deleted the tweet.

DiGiorno doesn’t do due diligence

Newsjacking doesn’t always have to revolve around events, it can also be used in conjunction with popular hashtags. In 2014, the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed brought awareness to domestic violence issues.

The serious subject was newsjacked by DiGiorno Pizza, which tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” The inappropriate tweet was deleted within minutes after outrage, and DiGiorno tweeted again saying they didn’t read what the hashtag was about before posting, proving it’s important to do your due diligence before trying to hijack a trend.

Cinnabon labeled tasteless

Social media erupted with tributes to Carrie Fisher when the popular actress of Star Wars fame passed away. Cinnabon thought they recognized an opportunity to tie its brand to Fisher’s passing. 

The cinnamon-bun chain posted a tweet saying “RIP Carrie Fisher, you’ll always have the best buns in the galaxy” along with an image of Fisher with a cinnamon bun as hair. The tweet was quickly removed and labeled as tasteless by CNN.

If you’re interested in discussing how newsjacking can be used as a public relations tool to help promote your business, reach out to me at or download our eBook.

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