Tuesday , February 27 2024
Cover bands don't change the world.

Book Reviews: SXSW Interactive: Newsjacking, Uncertainty, and Accidents

Among the computers, flashing lights, video cameras, ubiquitous Wi-Fi, and people dressed as bloated software of SXSW, you wouldn’t expect to find authors reading their books. But, after all, books were the first interactive media, so they are represented at SXSW as well.

David Meerman Scott talked about his new book Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Jonathan Fields helped us understand how uncertainty can be a good thing in Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance. And Todd Henry gave recipes for staying creative and employed in The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice.


“Newsjacking” according to Scott, is the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business. This is difficult for many organizations which follow traditional PR rules, involving sticking closely to a preset script and campaign timeline.

The recent Super Tuesday elections provided an excellent example ofNewsjacking newsjacking. The Wednesday news should have been all about the Republicans who were battling in primaries across the country. What happened? President Obama held his first news conference in six months and “just happened” to choose that Tuesday. The next day, the Republicans had to share the front page with the president.

But, what if you’re not the president? Scott told a story about an insurance company we’ll call Company Smart, whose chief rival, we’ll call Company Rival, was bought by a fortune 500 behemoth, we’ll call Company Big.

Company Big put out a press release which basically just said, “We bought company Rival and the details will not be released at this time.” They didn’t bother to tell Company Rival’s customers.

The president of Company Smart got out a press release the next afternoon which discussed the implications for the market of the purchase of Company Rival. This was picked up by the media and became the second paragraph of the story for most outlets, because Company Big had not provided this kind of background and analysis.

This resulted in positive PR for Company Smart, which followed up the publicity by sending copies of the coverage to the customers of Company Rival. That resulted in customers leaving Company Big and moving over to Company Smart.

This works, according to Scott, because companies are learning to live in the present and act fast. “Act now before that window of activity fades away,” he said. “Newsjack when reporters are looking for more information. If you run things pass the lawyers of the agency first, you’ll miss your chance.” Companies, he said, should appoint a “Real Time Officer.”

Jonathan Fields, a lawyer turned entrepreneur, blogger, speaker and author, draws from neuroscience, case-studies, and personal experience for his new book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance. FieldsUncertainty writes about entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, empowered-living and marketing at JonathanFields.com.

Fields suggest a range of experiments to keep you fresh and get “unstuck.”

One of the experiments of which he is most proud is his skull-a-day project. Fields committed to create a graphic of a skull every day for a year. According to Fields, a “365-project” keeps you thinking about ideas beyond your assignments. I can testify to the effectiveness of this idea as I used this technique last year when I took a photograph a day.

Fields also recommends that creatives “let go of preciousness.” That is, don’t be a perfectionist. One way of overcoming perfectionism, he said, is to commit to using a small amount of time to create many things.

Time is one limitation and Fields feels that creative freedom comes from limitations. If you had unlimited time to finish a project, he suggested, you might never start it. Limitations make you think. As an example of creativity fired by limitations, Fields points to the blackout poetry of Austin Cleon. Cleon creates poetry by blacking out words from newspaper stories.

Other suggestions Field makes include: get out of your environment and do unusual things; get out of you comfort zone; give some of your work away; and, collaborate if you usually work alone (or vice versa).

“Inspiration,” Fields concludes, “is everywhere.”

Creatives working in advertising or graphic arts agencies often face different challenges, according to Todd Henry, in his book The Accidental Creative: How To Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice.

“For creatives in today’s workplace”, he said, “it sometimes feels like theAccidental Creative mandate is make it brilliant, or start working on your resume.”

At the same time, Henry argues, creativity often seems like some mystical, elusive force that sits somewhere between prayer and the U.S. Tax Code on the ambiguity scale — either the creative juices are flowing, or they’re not. How can creatives be held responsible for something that often seems beyond their control?

Henry’s book suggests that the good news is that by making small changes in a just few key areas of your life, it’s possible to increase your chances of having brilliant ideas when you need them most.

Henry surveyed many professional and asked the question, “When was the last time you created something that was not an assignment?” Sadly, Henry recalled, many could not remember.

Henry suggests that the key to continued creativity is to be prolific, brilliant, and healthy. Lacking any one of these, he said, could lead to disaster.

Following his program, he said, could help you find your originality, or as he put it, “Cover bands don’t change the world.” Lastly, he said, the goal should be to give totally, and create absolutely everything you can. His advice: “Die empty.”

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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