My friend Mike makes chopping blocks.
No machines and no Chinese imports. Just 100% handcrafted premium blocks of wood.
He has a problem though. No one knows that he sells them.
Over 12,000 people every month are looking for chopping blocks.
But not a single one of those 12,000 people knows Mike exists and that he has awesome chopping blocks
How can Mike get the attention his product deserves? Newsjacking.
What if Fox News did a report on chopping blocks and featured Mike in their story? What if that story had 200,000 people view it and 0.3% of those people bought his chopping blocks?
Mike would sell over $90,000 in chopping blocks and his life would change overnight.
Today I’m going to show you how we used newsjacking to get millions of people to know we existed and how you can do the same thing.
How we used newsjacking to get my hometown mayor elected
This story gets a little crazy…
I used newsjacking for the first time in the spring of 2013.
The results were insane. We were featured on Fox, CBS, NBC, Yahoo, Business Insider and countless other outlets. We got 2,000,000 impressions throughout the campaign and we got my hometown mayor elected.
This is the story of what we did and how you can do the same thing.
1. Sandy Stimpson runs for mayor
Mobile, AL isn’t the easiest place for a 60+ year-old upper-class white man to be elected mayor. Especially when the city just overwhelmingly voted Barack Obama into office and had a two-time African-American incumbent. But a good friend of mine was tasked with just that. I was hired to help.
The candidate’s name was Sandy Stimpson and our mission was to make him the next mayor.
2.. Oprah vs. David Letterman
In the late 90s I watched David Letterman a lot. During that time he had an ongoing feud with Oprah. He wanted her on his show but she kept ignoring him. So Dave latched onto that and for years made it an ongoing theme on his TV show. Random “Dave loves Oprah” signs would pop up at events all around the world.
It was a funny recurring segment that Dave used to bolster his brand and poke fun at Oprah at the same time.
3. Two plus two
The mayoral campaign was well underway and our candidate was off to a good start. Then we were presented with a golden opportunity when Business Insider published an article titled “11 Most Miserable Cities in America.”
Guess where Mobile ranked? Number 3.
The article made the front page of Yahoo. It was syndicated all across the internet and on all of the major news networks.
It was bad publicity for the city, BUT a golden opportunity to show the voters that we would stick up for Mobile. Instantly, I knew exactly what we had to do. We had to go “David Letterman” on the author.
Our new mission? Get the author, Julie Zeveloff, to Mobile.
4. Get their attention
Naturally, the first thing I did was to pick up the phone to make sure that Sandy and my friend (the campaign manager) were on board with my idea.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Did you see this article?
Chad: No. Let me look. Holy crap, that sucks.
Me: It’s a freaking gold mine.
Me: Can we buy her a round-trip ticket and put her up in a 5-star hotel for 3 nights?
My thinking was: If we could get her to Mobile and show her what a cool city it is, then perhaps she would write a follow-up article detailing her experience. It would also be an interesting local story and perhaps we could get the local newspaper or a TV stations to do one of those “special interest’ stories” on it.
I then proceeded to do EVERYTHING I could possibly think of to get her attention. I started with a tweet.
Then I emailed her.
Then we made a video for her:
Then I sent follow-up emails to her when she didn’t respond.
Eventually, she said yes!
6. Follow-up & dread
As soon as I got her email confirming the trip I picked up the phone and called the campaign manager again. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Dude, she said yes!
Me: Julie is coming to Mobile!
Chad: Are you serious?
Then there was immediate dread. Fear crept in and we began to second-guess ourselves:
“What if she gets here and hates it?”
“What if she writes a terrible follow-up article?”
“What if we were completely wrong and the public hates this and we lose the election?”
7. Shock and awe
Quick recap: Our guy is running for mayor of Mobile, AL. Odds are low that he gets elected. Business Insider writes an article calling Mobile the 3rd most miserable city in the entire country. We start a campaign to get the author (of said article) to come to Mobile to experience the city for herself. Eventually it works.
OK… back to the story…
Julie flies into the city and is greeted by over 100 people and all 3 of the local news stations.
The next 2.5 days are full of every type of seafood and local cuisine you can imagine, a full city tour, airboat ride of the delta and tour of the state-of-the-art military ships being built in the Mobile port.
Best of all, she live-tweeted and blogged the entire experience.
8. The Results
Julie wrote three more articles about her experience (all rave reviews), and all three of the major local TV stations led with the “Julie story” for 2 days straight on their prime-time broadcast.
The story made Yahoo, NBC World News, Business Insider, every local radio and news station, the state newspaper and local newspaper and was syndicated all over the world from the UK to Australia.
By my count over 2,000,000 people saw the story in some form or fashion.
And best of all… Sandy won the election.
4 things you need to make newsjacking work for you
1. Personal attention: Julie gets pitched every day. This was different. It was persistent, original and obvious from the outset that tons of effort had been put into it.
2. Mutually beneficial: People care about themselves. They are marginally interested in you. This story wasn’t about getting Sandy elected as mayor. It was a story of redemption and how statistics don’t always tell the full story. Ultimately it was all about getting more traffic to the Business Insider website. This story accomplished that with over 400,000 direct clicks.
3. Stand for something: There were people who thought we did this just for the attention. That was certainly a factor in the decision. However, the main driving force was sticking up for our city. What kind of man can represent a city and allow it to be cast in a bad light without doing anything about it?
4. Persistence: Nothing ever happens easily. I’m cool with that because I know that if I work harder and smarter, it will pay off in the end. Don’t. Freaking. Quit. Show persistence and people will eventually listen.
How can you apply this to your business?
What would happen to your business if 2,000,000 people suddenly found out about it? I know what happened for Sandy. He became the mayor.
And I have a good idea of what would happen for Mike’s chopping block business. He would sell $90,000 worth of chopping blocks.
“But Bryan, that works in politics but it would never work for me. I’m not running for mayor, I sell chopping blocks!”
You know what? You might be right. You may not get 2 million views.
What if your campaign only went half as well?
One of the hardest things about newsjacking is that it’s hard to know what stories to jump on, how often to do it and exactly what strategy you should apply to stories that seem perfect.
Here are two clarifying questions you can ask to help narrow your focus:
Is someone directly attacking me or challenging my stance on a position?
Is my industry or core focus area being attacked by outsiders who don’t understand its inner workings?
If the answer to either of these is yes, then you have a good opportunity to jump on the story.
How do you find stories and what do you do with them when you find them?
If you’ve made it this far, you are serious about your business.
And I’ve put together a bonus section for you
- How to find relevant news stories for implementing the “Letterman.”
- How NOT to spend hours and hours every day digging through articles.
- How to spend 5 minutes a day and have the best stories sent TO YOU.
All of this is free. Just enter your email address below and you’ll be whisked away to the members area where you can download the information. You’ll also get a weekly email from me with a new formula for growing your business with video.