On newsjacking, hot takes, and opinion pieces

When a story starts trending, a video goes viral, or an event takes over the news cycle, sharing your thoughts on the matter can be tempting. In some cases, speaking up in support or opposition to an issue that is important to you is part of how you stay in alignment with your core values. In other instances, you may speak up to increase your visibility and demonstrate your expertise.

Three tactics you can use to respond to a trending story.

When a trending story strikes a chord, you must decide if you want to respond to the story and, if so, whether you want to respond as a private citizen or an authoritative expert. Responding in your professional capacity means that you are lending the weight of your business experience and expertise to your response. If you are responding to a trending story as a professional, there are three tactics you can use:

1. Engage in newsjacking.

The term “newsjacking” was coined by David Meerman Scott, the well-known marketing strategist and author. According to Scott, newsjacking is “the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.” The definition has expanded to include any trending story, whether newsworthy or not. Newsjacking can take several forms, including a tweet, meme, article, or video. It can poke fun at the trending story or offer a clever counterpoint.

For example, when gas prices surged in April 2022, Krispy Kreme ran a multi-week promotion where the average price of gas dictated the price of a dozen doughnuts. The company shared the news through a press release and its social media accounts. Dozens of media outlets wrote about the Krispy Kreme gas pricing, creating a lot of buzz for the doughnut purveyor.

2. Write a hot take.

According to Merriam-Webster, a hot take is “a quickly produced, strongly worded, and often deliberately provocative or sensational opinion or reaction (as in response to current news).”

A hot take is a type of newsjacking. In some circles, the term “hot take” is derogatory, and there are several memes about the hot take’s questionable value. Social media has made it easy for people to share their opinion about everything, regardless of whether they know much about the subject. But the derogatory connotation of the term “hot take” also stems from the fact that this type of commentary is often provocative — and that doesn’t always sit well.

3. Write an opinion piece.

An opinion piece expresses someone’s beliefs or views. In traditional newspapers, these articles typically appear on the op-ed page (the page opposite the editorial page).

Like a hot take, the writer must quickly produce an opinion piece in response to a trending story. But opinion pieces are generally not as provocative or sensational. Instead, they are persuasive.

When done well, responding to a trending story can increase your visibility and position you as an expert in your field. But when done poorly, it can damage your reputation. Before responding to a trending story, think carefully about whether your response elevates the conversation or simply adds to the noise. Once you’ve decided to respond, think about which of the tactics above will help you reach your goals.