When the lights go out in Vegas, it's big news--especially if the outage happens during the annual Consumer Electronics Show, with more than 180,000 attendees showcasing gadgets galore. Not the kind of event you can present unplugged, but for a smart entrepreneur, this kind of mishap is a great opportunity for a newsjacking.

Newsjacking is the art of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to generate media coverage, get sales leads, and grow your business. Pioneered--and named--by author and online strategist David Meerman Scott, the practice is now so popular that it recently made the Oxford Dictionary.

Marketers attending the Electronics Show took a page from Scott's book, Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. They responded to the blackout with instant social media strategies that should inspire you to think fast--and act even faster.

"It's exciting to me personally that so many marketers are quick off the mark when there is an opportunity for newsjacking like this,"  says Scott. But while the practice has taken hold, he feels many marketers are still too timid. "People think of Oreo's You Can Dunk in the Dark Tweet that went viral when the Super Bowl's lights went out," says Scott. That example, Scott believes, is limiting because you've got a captive audience: Everyone is watching the Super Bowl.

Find the right opportunities to insert your brand.

Scott suggests finding less obvious newsjacking opportunities. "It's more interesting to be quick for something that no one saw coming," he asserts, "rather than lying in wait for something to happen during the Grammy's, Oscars or the State of the Union Address."

Scott's point is it is way more interesting to respond in real-time when what you are responding to is something completely random that your audience never saw coming - like an inherently ironic blackout at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Brands stepped up with a variety of creative tweets. Intel took a lofty tone, hiring a violinist to entertain the attendees and running a video of her playing, with the caption "The human spirit never loses its power."

The network service company ISPN showed smart use of humor and borrowed interest, tweeting a photo of a flashlight as "Hottest gadget at #CES2018 right now!" Canon USA Imaging and Huawei Mobile both saw a serendipitous opportunity to plug their low-light cameras--Cannon even managed to throw together an instant demo."  

Timing is everything.

While you may have great timing, and a great idea, go easy on the great expectations. You can't expect to go viral every time you respond in real-time. Scott doesn't see this as much of a problem.

"A newsjacking attempt that doesn't go viral isn't a failure--it is still an interesting piece of content--it is just not the one that took off," he asserts. "I look at newsjacking like a venture capitalist looks at investing in companies. If one in ten companies that you invest will go public - it makes up for all the other ones that didn't go as well."

Scott has been talking about newsjacking since he came up with the term in 2011 but it took until 2017 for the Oxford dictionary to shortlist it as word of the year. It may take some time to get noticed for your brand too.

What makes newsjacking possible is the fact that we live in a real time world. No matter how you feel about President Donald Trump, there's no denying he's used Twitter in a new way. In 2016, he was the first presidential candidate to  tweet about things that were going on in the news at that very moment. In fact, he was tweeting a running commentary during Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech.

Generate leads and interest.

Done well, newsjacking can generate interest and sales leads. If you really tap into the zeitgeist, you could hit on exactly what people are thinking at that particular moment and prompt them to purchase your product. Newsjacking is a great adjunct to your branding efforts, with one caveat: your company's reactions should be consistent with your brand. Intel's lofty approach would not have worked as well for them if they were in the video game business.

One unexpected benefit of newsjacking is employee recruitment. The personality your company projects during a real time conversation about a real time event says a lot about what it's like to work for your company. "If you're talking about an important industry message in an interesting way,"  Scott points out, "They are likely to be intrigued by your company."