Sean Smith’s BC Ferries Rant Presents A Great Newsjacking Opportunity



Image Courtesy of Kesara Rathnayake Via Flickr

Lately I’ve been following local discussions surrounding Victoria to find content and newsjacking opportunities for our clients and this very blog you are reading. I’ve been searching Twitter and the #yyj hashtag, the Victoria subreddit and the Facebook pages of all the local media. It’s been a gold mine of opportunities.

In fact tonight I came across what I think is a great opportunity for brand to really steal the spotlight from a breaking news story.

But before I get into that, let me quickly explain what newsjacking is.

What Is Newsjacking?

“Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story and generating tons of media coverage and social media engagement.”

David Meerman Scott who works in Public Relations coined the catchy term and wrote a book about it called Newsjacking of all things. It’s essentially a great way to earn free media for being creative and quick to the punch.

This idea I am about to share might work. It might not. But it costs nothing and is worth the shot and the potential media coverage.

A News Story Breaks

Everyone hates BC Ferries. Including Sean Smith.

Sean is from Campbell River. He has a computer, Facebook and a opinion. He combined all three to create a pretty epic rant in regards to BC Ferries and a proposal to shut down the Departure Bay Terminal in Nanaimo, which is 90 minutes south of Campbell River and the nearest place for Sean to catch a ferry to Vancouver.

It was so epic it went viral. Within hours the links and comments on his Facebook post were through the roof.

A News Story Has Follow Ups

But that’s not all. Just as of a few hours ago Global News picked up the story. The floodgates are now open and I’m sure Sean, who is oddly enough a social media expert, is going to be gaining a lot more Facebook friends and potential clients from that. But that wasn’t the point of his post.

You may be thinking this blog post is about how Sean can capitalize on all his free media. Honestly, I gave my brain a late night workout thinking of how he could. Nothing came to me but he can still benefit from this idea.

I continued to think about who else could capitalize on this story. Then it hit me while reading the comments section of the Global News article.

A Newsjacking Opportunity Presents Itself

Although many people think BC Ferries has no competition, they kind of do. Airlines offer travel from Nanaimo to Vancouver.

Airlines like Harbour Air, Seair Airplanes, Island Express Air and Air Canada all offer travel from Nanaimo to Vancouver. Therefore, they indirectly compete with BC Ferries.

There is a great opportunity for one of these airlines to steal the spotlight of this story and gain some massive media attention. What could they do though? Something simple.

Offer Sean free travel between Nanaimo and Vancouver for a year or two. It would cost them a little bit in the way of one seat and a few trips. If his family were to tag along, they could give them a good sized discount to make the deal better.

But the value in media coverage they would earn if this story gets picked up would be huge. Why? Because people love a good news story despite the majority of news being negative. Who wouldn’t love to hear about Sean receiving a free year long pass from an airline? That and brand fights are healthy, especially when everyone already hates BC Ferries. Samsung picked a fight with Apple a few years ago and it worked well for them.

Be A Follow Up News Story

A big news story like the BC Ferries proposal has lots of follow up articles including Sean’s rant. Another one like the the idea I propose in the blog post would surely get picked up.

People would not only read about this airline offering an amazing gesture, but they would also look at them in a positive light.

During these same people’s next travel between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, they might end up saying screw BC Ferries since they already hate them and use that airline that offered Sean this gesture.

Who knows, maybe some people who fly with this airline competitors might actually switch to them.

It would have to be bigger airline that offers many travel routes so they can capitalize on this as people all over the province will read about it. A smaller airline with only a few routes wouldn’t reap the same rewards.

These follows up are spokes off the main story. As you can imagine a story has lots of spokes. Your goal is to be one of those spokes!

One Key Thing

The key for this airline to take advantage of this idea would be for them to write a blog post on their website and then reach out. They could reach out to the editor at Global News or the Journalist that wrote the previous article with a link to their previous blog post with their offer to Sean.

Writing a blog post ensures that the airline would get a link back to their site (great for SEO) and referral website traffic from the follow up news story.

As I mentioned, this idea might work. It might not. Not all newsjacking gestures are followed through.

How can you apply newsjacking to your business?

Steal The Spotlight

Here’s how you can steal the spot light and jack the news whether locally, regional or nationally:

  1. Find and monitor the news, local discussion forms and Twitter
  2. Think about how your company can creatively steal the news spotlight on a story
  3. Write a blog post about what you plan to do
  4. Reach out to the local media, journalists and or influencers in your area
  5. Watch the free media increase your website traffic and sales!

By Saying He’d Draft a Female Player Mark Cuban is a Publicity Genuis

Mark Cuban is a Newsjacker

Last Sunday Baylor Universities Women’s Basketball team lost in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Baylor Star Brittney Griner played her last college game ever.

This was small news story since the Men’s tournament steals all the press.

Big deal right. What does this have to do with marketing? Quite a bit actually.

You see, Dallas Mavericks owner, Shark Tank “Shark” and all around awesome guy Mark Cuban says he would consider drafting Griner in this June’s NBA draft.

This has caused the media outlets and fans everywhere to talk about Cuban, the Mavericks and the possibility of Brittney playing in the NBA.

It’s brilliant really. You see, Cuban most likely isn’t going to draft her. But he’s taken a very small news story and blown it up.

It’s great for Brittney, Mark, the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA and the WNBA where she’ll end up playing professionally.

What Mark Cuban did here was jack the news. He took a small story and made it HUGE! Because of that he’s created a bunch of free media impressions for his team and himself.

This is known a newsjacking.


I’ve talked a bit about newsjacking on my Facebook page.

Why? Because it’s an awesome way to get some free PR. Especially on a local level where slow news days are common.

But what is newsjacking? David Meerman Scott coined the phrase and even wrote a short book about it.

It’s really simple.

It’s the art of spinning a news story in a unique way. So much so that media outlets have to talk about your angle of the story because it’s unique.

Why and How it Works

Here’s why it works. Reporters from all over are always looking for a different angle. After all what reporter wants to pitch the same angle of a story? And who wants to listen to the same story over and over.

So reporters will begin to search for that different angle. My suggestion is to start cuddle up and build relationships with reporters in your city. When a story hits and your ready to jack the news, you can contact your reporters and pitch your angle with ease since you’ve built a relationship with them.

The other option is your blog.

Kind of like this post your reading. If I was quicker to the party, I might have been able to jack the news away from Cuban with my angle. Who knows I still might.

By Saying He’d Draft a Female Player Mark Cuban Is A Publicity Genuis – Click to Tweet

Since you and I are not Mark Cuban, we don’t have full access to the media. This is why a blog post comes into play. Reporterts will head to Twitter or Google to see if anyone has a different angle on a story.

You need to blog about it and spread the word via your social platforms.


It can be hard trying to figure out ways to newsjack. You need to be fast and creative. My suggestion is to learn from other examples.

Here’s two examples of newsjacking to help you.

Since I’m a big sports fan, I’ll use another story from the NBA.

A few months back the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat were set to face off. It was a marquee game and nationally televised on TNT.

The Spurs head coach Gregg Popivich sent the teams top three players back home to rest. Big deal right?

Larry McGuinness

Well a couple of weeks later a lawyer who bought a resale ticket jacked the news. Larry McGuinness filed a class action lawsuit saying the Spurs and Popovich because they “violated a state law“.

As you can tell this created a news story that hit just about every major sports and news outlet. So this lawyer created massive waves because he was smart. Of course the suit wasn’t going to go through.

But who cares, he created endless media impressions. Don’t believe me? Click here to see the Google search results for “Larry McGuinness Miami lawyer”.

McGuinness is probably all over the media in Miami. He started out small I’m sure. Over the years I bet he has made solid connections with reporters to help him break the story above.

Here’s another example from Wynn Resorts spokeswomen Jennifer Dunne.

Back in 2010 Hilton Hotel Heiress Paris Hilton was arrested on drug charges. Dunne saw this as great opportunity to newsjack.

So she told the AP that Hilton was banned from all Wynn properties! David Meerman Scott wrote about why it was such great move.

Imagine Wynn Hotels banning the Hilton Hotel Heiress. The nerve!

More importantly what an angle and news story for media outlets to pick up.

Wynn’s free media impressions went trough the rough. And they took a story with only a tiny hook (the Hilton Hotel Heiress) and turned into something big.

To prove that it was done for the PR, the ban as lifted a year later. So they had no real intention of banning her for life but merely to create some impressions.

I love it!


Since I read Newsjacking a few months back I’ve been praciticing. Whenever I read a news story I try and see what business could jack the news.

More often than not the ideas are not that ground breaking. But they’re effective because of the timing. You have to be quick and get your angle out there.

My suggestion is to do the same. Scan any news story and think about how you could create a unique angle.

It should be noted that your angle has to have some sort of meaning. Or else no reporters will care to write about it.

Or worse you could be like Kenneth Cole and really outrage people after this tweet.

Kenneth Cole on Twitter, you're doing it wrong!

I’ll be blogging about other opportunities on newsjacking so be sure to follow me along and subscribe to my email updates.

What Do You Think?

What do you think about newsjacking and how could your business benefit from it?

Mark Cuban image courtesy of Keith Allison