How Soybeans Make Headlines: The MarineTraffic Newsjacking Case Study
In July and August 2018, the internet – and every news site – exploded with news about Trump’s tariffs, all reflected through one tiny ship, the “Peak Pegasus”. For example, check out this QZ.com piece.
It wasn’t a coincidence that all the reporters stumbled across this bulk ship loaded with soybeans.
This episode tells the story of how MarineTraffic dominates the news cycle. Over the course of just five minutes, you’ll dive deep into how a combination of data, storytelling, and emotions can take even the most boring story – trade tariffs – and secure press mentions across Quartz, Reuters, and others, all based on real-world experience from the folks at MarineTraffic.
Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill. The Holly Smoot Tariff Act.
Those two words are so boring, it’s what Ferris Bueller’s teacher uses to put the class to sleep. But today, I’m going to talk about how some smart PR can turn trade tariffs and soybeans into thousands of media mentions, across Quartz, Reuters, The Guardian, Business Insider…everywhere. And it happens through the magic of newsjacking – hiking a ride on something happening in the news to get your company mentioned.
Just in case you forget, my name is Eytan Buchman, you’re tuning in to Two Minute Marketing, and I’m going to break my promise to never talk about freight on this podcast. First, meet the folks from MarineTraffic’s marketing team.
Hi my name Georgios Hatzimanolis. I’m the media communications and content manage at MarineTraffic. I guess you could say that my job is to create buzz about the company through different mediums.
Hi my name is Nico, I’m the Head of Marketing at MarineTraffic and my role is to push people and the team to be as successful as they can.
Aw, that’s beautiful. But here’s one more thing you need to know. MarineTraffic sells data about ships. Well, way more than that, but that’s the essence. And it’s reallyhard to get broad interest in data about ships. Unless you make newsjacking a core part of your marketing mix.
Our company vision is to bring transparency to the maritime world, and our products, they do generate information about shipping. Therefore, we see newsjacking as something aligned with our vision of transparency, while also giving us an opportunity to promote our core products.
And that’s where this story came together.
The team here at Marine Traffic is always monitoring the news and looking for ways that we can provide data to journalists to assist them to tell better stories.
During the period in question, the US had just imposed sanctions on China, stoking fears of a trade war, which meant the world’s media was following this issue very closely. We tried to find a different angle to the story, one that would allow us to use Marine Traffic and appeal to our followers on social media, which is when one of the teams suggested we look for vessels trying to make it to China in time, before the sanctions kick in.
Trump’s tariffs were set to take place on soybeans, which would instantly hike up the taxes for the contents of the “Peak Pegasus”. Stupid name. And, what do you know, Marine Traffic knew where the ship was at any given moment. I want to flag three components that made the perfect storm:
- There was news relevancy
- There was a huge emotional and urgency component to the story – tracking whether the ship makes it there on time
- And there was data.
That’s a killer newsjacking trinity. Data. Urgency. Story. After pitching it out to journalists, they picked up literally dozens of backlinks from 85+ domain authority websites, over 10,000 mentions of the Peak Pegasus online for a stupid ship – many with MarineTraffic data, and they made a huge, huge brand splash.
A cargo ship stuck at sea is finally docking at port. The peak pegasus has been sailing near the coast for nearly a month.
How did it come together?
the result was a culmination of a lot of clever work by the team, which comes obviously with practice, and really good timing, which comes from the ability to know what is news worthy and what it’s important, with a bit of luck.
But you know me, I’m reall big on measuring. So beyond media mentions and back-links, what’s the real hard north star metric for newsjacking that you can track from a PR perspective? This is where you need to be into marketing AND PR because the answer’s kinda a combination of the two.
What we are trying to achieve is consistent and frequent media coverage. In order for us to get there, what we need to do is to have solid and a lot of relationships with journalists.
Or as Nico says…
Basically, we enrich existing stories with value generated from our products, . My advice would be to measure newsjack activities for what they really are: a step towards a big boom.
Do not expect sales, leads, and money in the bank after a single newsjack activity, because it simply won’t happen. What you can expect is to have journalists knocking at your door.
Last year Elon Musk retweeted a post with the link to our site. We’re talking about 160,000 sessions in less than two hours.
Data, story, relevancy and your newsjacking success is nailed. But wait, one more small thing before you go. If you really like this podcast, all I ask is that you name your first-born after it. Either that, or leave a review on iTunes saying how much you love Two Minute Marketing. Either works for me – I’m easy going. “anyone? Anyone?”
Until next time, happy marketing.