Can you use large or local news stories to amplify your hotel’s message and build direct bookings? Yep! When marketers do this, they call it ‘newsjacking’.  Popularized by marketer David Meerman Scott, this is a great way to raise your hotel’s profile at little to no cost, while also making sure you look up to date and on top of current events to potential guests. When your site gets more traffic, if your buying funnel is set up correctly, you also get more direct bookings.

Newsjacking is a recent idea, but also a natural extension of content marketing – and a great way to organically boost your website traffic, something which is becoming persistently more difficult. When you use news stories correctly, you can boost your hotel’s profits by climbing up the searching engine rankings and radically improving your hotel’s visibility.

That’s how using the news can benefit your hotel – but what is it? How does it accomplish the benefits we’ve promised? Are their risks to your SEO if it’s done incorrectly?

Don’t worry – all your questions are about to be answered:

What Exactly is Newsjacking?

Newsjacking is a technique that hotel marketers can use to gain publicity for their hotel, and it can be summed up like this:

Existing Demand + Breaking News = Lots of Exposure

There’s high demand in today’s world of short news cycles for breaking news stories. Smart hotel marketers use this to their advantage by adding to the discussion.

This is why tech sites may blog about controversial products (iPhone 7 dropping the headphone jack, anyone?), and marketers write about Google’s latest search algorithm changes while adding tips and tricks.

A great hotel-related example of Newsjacking comes from Steve Wynn, owner of Encore Wynn Hotel.

wynn hotel newsjacking

When Prince Harry stayed at his hotel, Steve Wynn publicly waived the expensive hotel bill.

This got the Wynn into – according to a Google News count –  3,657 stories. This news story from the Daily Mail “Living like a king: Prince Harry’s £30,000 hotel bill ‘waived’ by Vegas billionaire” is (despite the source) essentially a powerful, free advertisement for the luxury Encore Wynn.

For the price of a few room nights, Steve’s hotel got thousands of mentions in news outlets. These mentions came with hundreds of backlinks, tons of traffic and better search rankings. Funnily enough, this isn’t the first time Wynn has used the news to get their hotel more attention and business:

In August 2013, hotel heiress Paris Hilton was arrested for drug possession. A few days later Wynn Resorts told the associated press that Hilton is banned from Wynn Las Vegas and Encore. Again, this resulted in thousands of news outlets talking about the hotel.

The Wynn has successfully capitalized on these stories to paint itself as a hotel for the rich and famous, which is perfectly on brand for the Las Vegas property.

How Can Newsjacking Get Your Hotel More Bookings?

It’s clear that using the news has the potential to be an SEO goldmine, but how can hoteliers use it to get more direct bookings?

1. Find relevant news to talk about

You can’t just pick any topic, of course. The technique only works when the topic can be tied to your industry or business. The first step is to find the right kind of news. For those of us without a network of journalists to rely on, this can be difficult.

Fortunately, there are plenty of simple digital tools that can notify you when certain keywords or phrases are mentioned on social media and the web.

Start by creating a list of search terms relevant to your hotel. Think about:

  • Customers
  • Industry buzzwords
  • Your competitor set
  • Neighbouring businesses
  • Popular attractions near you

Keep track of these keywords. Try using Google Alerts, searching for them on your favorite news outlets, or using sites like Buzzsumo to track top articles about them.

2. Plan what you’re going to add

Once you’ve found a worthy story, you need to link it back to your hotel.

The London Fire Brigade executed this perfectly:

When Kate Winslet was staying with Richard Branson at his private resort, lightning struck the building they were staying in. The building caught on fire. Branson’s mother was also in the home, but Kate managed to carry her to safety.

Within a few hours of the story’s release, the Brigade wrote a story for their website offering Kate a chance to train firefighters at a local training centre. They let reporters in on their offer, and soon enough their site exploded with traffic, links and free media exposure.

This was both a great opportunity to raise the Brigade’s public profile and a classy way to do it: they praised Kate, were respectful of the incident and kept it positive.

3. Reach Out To Relevant Reporters and News Sites

Simply posting your relevant newsjacking story won’t do very much on its own. That is called the “publish and pray” approach, and true to the name, without outreach you’ll only achieve exposure through heavenly intervention or a streak of blind luck.

Share the story on your social channels. Find reporters that wrote about the topic or journalists searching for more information, then pitch the story to them. There are a number of ways to leverage your story, and the more you take advantage the more exposure you’ll get.

How to Avoid Damaging Your Brand and SEO When Newsjacking

Newsjacking is an awesome technique, but if misused, it can backfire badly.

Copying articles about your hotel word for word on your site will show up to Google as duplicate content, and that will hurt your SEO. Also, trying to spin stories that are either too small (a local dance recital) or too big (like natural disasters, tragedies or huge political scandals) will backfire with your audience.

Ideally, you want stories that are powerful, local, but widely relevant. For example, Airbnb’s legal troubles in cities like San Francisco and Berlin are stories about a particular geographic area, but people care about it all over the world because Airbnb is all over world, and industry players are interested in seeing how the issue develops.

To avoid stories that might backfire:

Be Mindful of the News You Use

Anyone involved in newsjacking must be extremely sensitive to the stories they use. Poor newsjacking can seriously damage your reputation.

For example, when Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, many companies attempted to newsjack the story, but most backfired. The brands came across as vultures hungry for media exposure, instead of being sensitive to a storm that cost $71.4 billion in economic damage in the United States alone and killed over a hundred people. One company, for example, wrote an article on “18 of Our Favourite Hurricane Sandy Date Ideas” while another used the hurricane to promote their cosmetics.

That’s in poor taste, and newsjacking tragedies can actively hurt your brand, as well as hurting those affected by the events themselves.

Go Easy On the Selling

Depending on the situation, trying to directly sell your services can be harmful. The majority of your content should be adding to the conversation, not just quoting it to sell. Guests today are hugely aware of being sold to, and it doesn’t play well.

Remember: content marketing is about building awareness and trust, not the hard sell.

Be Wary of Duplicating Other News Stories

Duplicate content is content that appears on the Internet in more than one place, and it’s something that strikes fear into the heart of SEO experts. When multiple pieces of similar content are uploaded on the internet, it confuses search engines. It makes it hard for them to decide which version is the most relevant for searchers, and which is the original and the best. It also depresses the page rankings of the webpages with the content.

That’s why it’s very important to avoid copying newsjack stories. Instead, craft your own content, add fresh angles and views, and try to be as helpful and relevant as possible. Do show off if your hotel is featured in the paper or wins an award, but write your own piece around it!

Conclusion

Newsjacking can be an SEO goldmine, but only if used correctly. By following the formulas above, you can harness the power of breaking news stories to attract more traffic, improve your rankings, and win more bookings.

Images and newsjacking examples in this article are from David Meeram Scott, author of Newsjacking