Newsjacking: A Powerful Way to Get Your Message Heard

newsjackingNewsjacking is the practice of hijacking or drafting behind breaking news to get coverage for your brand or message. David Meerman Scott’s newest book does a great job explaining the concept and recounting numerous examples:

  • Rick Perry newsjacked the Iowa Ames Straw Poll this year by officially announcing his candidacy on the same day. Even though Michelle Bachman spent weeks in Iowa and won the poll, Rick Perry got most of the news coverage that day.
  • Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress following his idiotic decision to send a sexually explicit picture of himself to a young woman via Twitter and lying about it. Larry Flynt newsjacked the story by offering Weiner employment at his Flynt Management Group.  Hundreds of news stories mention Flynt’s employment offer.
  • The CEO of Eloqua, a marketing automation company, learned that Oracle had quietly acquired one of his competitors. He immediately got online to write a blog titled “Oracle Joins the Party,” describing how Oracle’s acquisition validates the market and represents a huge opportunity for Eloqua. Many of the news stories quoted his blog post.

The newsjacker’s goal is to own the second paragraph: the part of the news article where the reporter explains the “why” and the implications of the story. In some cases, like the Rick Perry example described above, the newsjack can become the main story. But in most cases, the newsjacker drafts behind the peloton of the breaking news, in some cases spinning it to their advantage.

Newsjacking requires real-time responsiveness to the market – when a story is breaking, you can’t wait until you have some free time to write a response, or look for approval from five layers of management. For this reason, newsjacking often favors the smaller company competing with the corporate giant.

Newsjacking also requires good judgement and a tasteful response.  Scott describes the backlash against designer Kenneth Cole when he tweeted “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online”. His cuteness was seen as inappropriate when people were dying in the Egypt uprising as well as a crass attempt to cash in on the protests.  If the news is tragedy (and so often it is), your response has to help. If the news is less emotionally laden, the response needs to provide a new insight or perspective.

Scott outlines pragmatic and useful approaches to finding opportunities to newsjack, developing a strategy for providing an appropriate and insightful viewpoint, and getting your message into the market.

Highly recommended.

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User Stories in Agile Marketing Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled “User Stories in Agile Marketing“. I intended to write a follow on post the next week, but travel and work and a few other blog posts came in between. Here is the long promised follow on, which covers how development user stories and agile marketing user stories differ, and how to implement user stories in agile marketing.

Here is a table of some of the differences between user stories used for development, compared to those used for agile marketing:

Development User Stories

Marketing User Stories

Low level High level
Lots of them Relatively few
Left brain Right brain
Focus on functionality Focus on outcomes


Because development user stories focus on relatively low level details and functionality, there tend to be lots of them in any given project: at least 20-30, and sometimes hundreds. Agile marketing user stories are higher level, and typically, there are fewer of them: generally under 10 per persona, and often only 3-4 per persona. Development user stories tend to focus on left brain oriented processes and functionality, “I want to login so that I can access subscriber content”.  Marketing user stories tend to focus on right brain outcomes which have emotions associated with them.  “As a mom, I want to take and share videos of the kids so that I can share important moments with grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.”  As marketers, we sometimes focus too much on function/feature, rather than outcomes.  Good marketers and salespeople have learned this lesson.  How does the Nordstrom saleslady sell a dress? Not based on feature/functions (it has spaghetti straps, a street length hem and six buttons), but based on outcomes (You look great in that dress.  Your husband is going to love it).

The back of the card containing a development user story outlines the test cases for the implementation of the user story. When documenting marketing user stories, I use the back of the card for a different purpose.  In one column, I list the SEO keywords associated with the user story.  This reminds me, if I’m generating a piece of content to address the user story, of the keywords and phrases that I need to incorporate in to my text.  In the second column, I list the alternatives that the user has to address this user story, starting with how they address it at present.  This column represents the competition, but it’s important to list more than just formal competitors (other companies in your market). How does the user achieve the outcome at present? In the example above, perhaps the mom uses a traditional camcorder to record videos of the kids, or perhaps she doesn’t record video at all, but uses a digital camera and shares stills.

So how to get started using Agile Marketing user stories? Begin by documenting the personas relevant to your product or service. I use a template like the one pictured above (this is a slight modification of a template used by Todd Warren and his NUvention class; thanks, Todd). After I document my personas, I begin writing down user stories for each one of my personas.  At times, there is overlap – multiple personas want the same outcomes. But often, different personas in a market or a sales cycle want different outcomes. By documenting these user stories as a team, including the SEO keywords and the alternative solutions, we can be more consistent and more effective.

What’s your experience? Have you tried user stories in marketing? If you’re interested in doing so, and you’d like to start with my templates, leave me a comment and I’ll send them to you.

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Outside Eyes and Ears: Coaching Top Performers

Photo courtesy of SD Dirk

Lance Armstrong had a coach; actually, two coaches (Johan Bruyneel and Chris Carmichael).  So does Rafael Nadal (his uncle Toni).  So do the world’s top opera singers. Tony La Russa’s masterful coaching of the St. Louis Cardinals was a critical factor in this year’s World Series.  Coaching can also benefit a top performing surgeon, according to a fascinating article by Atul Gawande in last month’s New Yorker magazine.

But how about mid-career, top performing marketers? Can they benefit from coaching, from an outside set of eyes and ears? I think the answer is clearly yes.

Great marketing requires great implementation of the basics – positioning, understanding the customer, engagement.  As we advance in our careers and we get engaged in projects, sometimes we forget or don’t pay enough attention to these fundamentals. The effectiveness of a marketing campaign can also be determined by the most minute of details: details that we may be too close to see. A coach’s perspective, encouragement and discipline can help even the best marketer improve their performance by tweaking the details and covering all the fundamentals.

I have a coach.  He’s not a marketing coach, but a business coach. I find talking to him once a week tremendously helpful. He provides me with that outside observer’s perspective. He reminds me to focus on particular details and to prepare thoroughly for a meeting, making sure I understand my objectives going in and thinking about the perspectives of other players. He sends me inspirational materials, including the above mentioned New Yorker magazine article. Without his coaching, I’m sure that I wouldn’t continue to grow as much as I have or enjoy my work as much as I do.

What about you? Could you use a coach? Where could you benefit the most from an outside set of eyes and ears, as well as the encouragement and discipline of a coach?

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Want to Learn Something? Teach It.

TeachingIt seems contradictory, doesn’t it? How can you teach something that you yourself don’t know well? The truth is, for anything that is an extension of your existing expertise or where you have a reasonable aptitude, the best way to learn something is to teach it.

Back in early September, I received an email from the University of Washington, Bothell campus, asking if I would be interested in teaching a course in E-Marketing. The person slotted to teach the course had dropped out, and I had a previous relationship with the school. I took the opportunity, although I didn’t then consider myself an expert in E-Marketing.

The last time my job title contained the word Marketing in the title was back at Microsoft, in the late 90′s up to early 2001.  At that time, Microsoft barely got the internet, and Mark Zuckerberg was still in prep school. No one at Microsoft talked about social media marketing, content marketing, search engine optimization or a host of other e-marketing techniques.

As CEO of a couple of startups, and then through my consulting practice, I had kept up with most of the new concepts in e-marketing, but I was hardly an expert. Here’s what I learned and some tips if you decide to use teaching as a method of learning a new skill or subject.

  • Read everything relevant to the topic and synthesize it – One of my best decisions early on was to use David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing & PR as a textbook, rather than a traditional college textbook.  I read it cover to cover before starting on the syllabus, and as I read, I investigated many of the links and sources that David referenced in the book.  David led me to another book, Content Rules, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, which in turn led me to sites like MarketingProfs, Junta42 and The Content Marketing Insitute. The synthesizing generally takes place as I prepare the lectures. I also take notes as I read using EverNote.
  • Call on the expertise of others – Where I don’t have deep expertise, I bring in people who do.  Cal McAllister of The Wexley School for Girls spoke this week on viral marketing, Todd Warren spoke on the creation and use of personas.  Later in the course, I have Matt Youngquist of Career Horizons coming in to talk about E-Marketing in the job search, and Tom Barr coming in to talk about E-Marketing at Starbucks.
  • Learn by doing – Before I teach something, I apply it in my consulting practice. I’ve built Facebook pages, created social media strategies, run webinars, worked on SEO and SEM, and created Content Marketing strategies for clients in my consulting business as I’ve taught these techniques in my class.  This allows me to enliven the discussion by bringing in my own experiences and challenges.
  • Let students learn by doing – I think the academic term for this is experiential learning, but I prefer the simpler “learn by doing”. My students must practice e-marketing either within the confines of an existing business, or by creating a blog or web site, and apply e-marketing techniques to increase their traffic and viewership.

What do you think? Have you ever learned something by teaching it? What new skill could you learn by teaching?

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User Stories in Agile Marketing

One of the most useful tools in Agile Development is the use of User Stories.  These stories, typically recorded on a large index card, take the format:

As a [role], I want to [task], so that I can [goal or benefit]

On the back side of the card, developers will usually list the acceptance criteria or test cases for the feature.  To see a good example of user stories in agile development, go here.

Are user stories relevant to the Agile Marketer? If so, how might they differ from user stories used by agile developers?

The Role of User Stories in Agile Marketing

User stories provide the agile marketer with insight into the personas associated with each of their target markets as well as focusing the marketer on the customer’s viewpoint and benefits.  Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

  • As a [role] – Roles correspond to Personas.  A Persona is typically a fictional character that is representative of a set of users who use a product or service in a particular way, and that play a particular role in the selection or use of that product or service.  The Persona is described in sufficient detail that product managers can make decisions regarding features or design elements of the product.  Marketers can use Personas to design web sites, write marketing collateral and generate content (blog posts, instructional videos, white papers, eBooks, etc) which meet the needs of these Personas.
  • I want to [task] – Focusing on what the customers want to accomplish, whether it’s solving a problem, alleviating a pain, scratching an itch, or aspiring to something better, reminds us of why the customers want our product.  For Content Marketers, focusing on tasks reminds us of how we can help our audience accomplish what they are looking to accomplish, and gives us an avenue to add value by providing relevant and helpful content.
  •  so that I can [goal or benefit] – The goal or benefit reminds us that all good marketing should answer a single question for the customer: What’s In It For Me (WIIFM).  Bad marketing focuses on the vendor’s products and features, rather than the benefits that accrue to the customer.

In my next blog post, I’ll describe how Agile Marketing user stories differ from Agile Development user stories, and share with you a couple of templates that I use to document Personas and User Stories.

What do you think?  Have you used user stories in your marketing?  How have you found them useful?

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