Subscribe to The Financial Brand via email for FREE!A HubSpot blog post titled 5 Hurricane Sandy Newsjacks From Marketers contains the following passage:

“Newsjacking is the practice of capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to amplify your sales and marketing efforts. So what are some ways in which marketers have inserted themselves in the conversation about the hurricane? Here are some examples; but proceed with caution. It’s important to ensure you’re not coming across as exploiting a natural disaster in your marketing.”

The article goes on to suggest ways marketers can “newsjack” by using Pinterest, publishing blog posts, emails, and special offers.

My take: This is the stupidest marketing advice I’ve seen all month. And it’s the 30th, so I’ve had plenty of time to see a lot of bad marketing advice.

Smart investors (and managers, for that matter) understand the concept of the risk/return tradeoff. The higher the risk you take, the greater the return you should expect from that investment.

Smart marketers — i.e., those who understand the risk/return concept — will recognize that in a natural disaster situation like a hurricane, the risk of “coming across as exploiting the disaster” is very high. How can you possibly know how people will respond to your message, since you have no chance to test the response? How can you risk someone with a million followers retweeting you and painting you in a negative light?

And for what return? A fleeting moment of mindshare among some unspecified number of consumers? Or maybe some small number of product sales?

Is that return worth the risk? No.

There are only two allowable types of tweets during a natural disaster:

1. Need to know information. Tweets regarding business continuity status, branch or store closings, service numbers to call, etc.

2. Hopes and prayers. A tweet offering your hopes and prayers to people affected by the disaster is allowable, but in my humble opinion, borders on newsjacking.

Any other type of tweet or social media post risks being misinterpreted as taking advantage of the situation.


Other tweeters (i.e., non-marketers) should think twice about what they tweet. 

During the storm, as my house was getting hit with 50-60 mph winds, as I was thinking about how my brother in downtown NYC and sister on Long Island were doing, there was no shortage of tweets from folks about things like social media marketing best practices. 


If 90% of your followers are located in an area unaffected by the disaster, then maybe your social media tweets are acceptable. 

But when 50 million people (ok, I’m making that number up, I have no idea how many people there were in the path of the storm) are affected by some natural disaster, do you really think they’re sitting around following the twitter stream to read about your stupid social media marketing advice? 


Bottom line: Only newsjerks practice newsjacking. It’s a term that did not need to be coined, let alone have a book written about it. 

p.s. If you’re looking for a link to the HubSpot post, you’re not going to find it here. I’m not going to feed traffic to a site that offers crappy marketing advice about newsjacking. 

Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at . Check out more of his ideas and research on Cornerstone's And don't forget to follow him on Twitter at

This article was originally published on October 30, 2012. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. Right on Ron! Couldn’t have stated better.

  2. There is no question that newsjacking is legitimate. What changed recently to make newsjacking work is that Google now indexes in real-time. That allow a timely blog post to be seen by journalists as they search for more information on a topic. Real-time is the key here.

    But there needs to be a legitimate tie to the story. And it is not a good idea to newsjack a story that includes death and destruction unless you are helping victims.

    So while the example you cite is in bad form, there are many times that you could inject your ideas into a break story about your industry, market, or geography.

    David Meerman Scott
    author of “Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage”

  3. What if a company tweets that they are donating money to disaster relief? What if a company puts a product on sale that could be very useful to disaster victims and publicizes it?

    Being relevant, a key to social media success, means engaging in current events. Another word for that might be Newsjerking.

    Sizing up Hubspot as “crappy” based on one article is a cheap shot. Besides, check the site for their response. They agreed they came out too callously on their post and even elected to give a donation to the relief effort.

    Hubspot has a great site with consistently interesting insights. I’d recommend them highly. And no, I have no connection to them except as a reader.

  4. Why does a company have to publicize its donation activities? Calling attention to itself because it donates money to worthy causes is newsjerking. If a company publicizes that it has, say, generators available during a power outage, that would qualify as a “need to know”. Third of all, I didn’t “size up” Hubspot as crappy — I simply refused to link to their site in this instance for providing what I considered to be crappy advice.

  5. Check out any company annual report. They’re proud of the causes they’ve supported, and will talk about them. Ask the recipients of the help if they mind if the sender received positive PR for giving. To the contrary, most fundraisers or people looking for sponsors will go out of their way to publicize the sources of their gifts. They also request the givers to publicize their giving with Tweets or Blogs as a way to generate more awareness for the cause, and thus get more funds. It may sound “jerky” but it’s nothing more than one of the human nature components that makes altruism work. Giving anomalously is great too, but that’s not the only way for giving to be honorable.

  6. Oh, come on. You’re comparing a company’s annual report to Twitter? I wouldn’t argue that an annual report isn’t an appropriate place (and time) to highlight the firm’s charitable activity. But that hardly counts as newsjacking. That’s the debate here. Whether or not using social media during a time of disaster to call attention to oneself is appropriate. HubSpot may have apologized. That’s great. Nice to see someone in the social media guru space admit when they’re wrong.

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