Content marketers often use popular stories and news to create visual content for marketing purposes. Creating fresh topics is always a struggle whereas trending news presents an easy and effective way to engage users and bring more traffic to your site. Even though finding ideas for content is easier when you leverage trending news, it also presents a range of challenges. Firstly, news hijacking is not a new content marketing technique. A plethora of brands are using it on a regular basis, so consumers are well aware of the trick. Secondly, there is always a risk of being too late or undermining customers’ trust with content that isn’t consistent with the brand’s image.

Despite the obvious drawbacks, news hijacking is a highly effective method when it comes to boosting traffic. Evergreen and long-form content form the core of the website, driving loyalty and trust, while content based on trending news can provide bursts of new traffic. The inspiration for visual content for marketing can come from many different places.

This article explores how to create content that naturally incorporates trending news and stories into a brand’s own story. Of course, part of the success with creating content based on popular stories relies on design. You can use online tools to help you align content with the brand’s image and story.

We all love to learn new things and expect brands to provide new educational materials. But familiarity has its own place in content marketing and our brains. Here is why familiar stories work:

Memory recall

The Familiarity Principles says that when we’re exposed to familiar messages, we tend to like them more than new messages. This effect has been proven by a simple experiment. When exposed to two versions of the Japanese alphabet, only one of which was familiar, most participants in the experiment preferred the one they recognized. Familiarity, it seems, makes us feel more comfortable and our memory is very quick to recognize a familiar object, even if we’ve only seen it briefly.

Association with strong emotions

Events and news have a lasting effect on our emotions. If a certain event was particularly exciting, you can leverage positive emotions that people are already experiencing and amplify the effect. Negative events have the same long-lasting power, but require a more careful approach to spin it in a positive light. Creating visual content for marketing requires understanding the emotions YOU want to elicit for the best result.

Social proof

With popular stories, you’re always riding someone else’s success train. This means that as the stories spread and reach more people, your visual content for marketing has the potential to become viral as well. Content created around popular stories is effective because it’s based on stories that already have a certain number of followers. People look for external validation of their content choice. The validation is provided when they see other people’s views, likes, and comments, and have face-to-face conversations about the stories. The psychological effect of social proof was identified by Robert Cialdini

Even if you’re not a fan of Game of Thrones, you hear people talking about it. And even if you don’t intend to watch the series, content built around Game of Thrones created by brands is bound to catch your attention.

Broader reach

Content that is based on popular stories has a tendency to attract people outside of your regular network. Once those new followers see your content, they will share it with their own networks as well. As a result, you can reach a much broader audience that would have been impossible with evergreen content alone when you employ “buzz” as visual content for marketing.

There are two types of trending content on which you can build your own visual content for marketing:

Topical/Industry News

Topical news includes all news in your industry as well as news outside your usual sphere of expertise but still highly relevant to brand values.

visual content for marketing
Snickers used the World Cup to gain attention.

For instance, Snickers leveraged the World Cup with humorous yet powerful messages built on individual players’ accomplishments during the event. The World Cup is outside Snicker’s expertise but is an event that exhibits shared values: enthusiasm, energy and action.


These are events and celebrations that all consumers have on their calendar, including public holidays, historical dates, unofficial celebrations and even events dictated by foreign calendars – for example, the Chinese New Year. Public holidays are often misused by marketers, who latch on every opportunity to create content. Visual content for marketing created around events and dates should be relevant to your brand’s values. Some brands, including Starbucks, enjoy the benefits of having a product that relates to almost every celebratory event.

Creating content based on trending news and stories isn’t easy. The most important part is news monitoring that can take a lot of time, considering the information overload environment we live in. Here are some tips to help you organize your content marketing efforts:

1. Highlight festivities and celebrations in your calendar. Take the time to mark all the important dates on your calendar. This will require extensive research, as you want to find public celebrations as well as lesser-known events related to your industry. You can find US and international holidays here, while National Day Calendar will help you track unusual and unique national days.

2. Monitor trending news. Twitter is the best tool for monitoring trending news. You can also subscribe to email newsletters and social profiles. Don’t stress over not being able to follow all the news. But diligently scan your subscriptions and newsfeeds every day, so that you can become well informed of current trends and viral stories. Also, use sites like Reddit, Hacker News and Product Hunt. These social news sites display stories that are then voted up or down by the community. Another way to track trending news is to set up notifications for the chosen keywords through Google Alerts.

3. Follow pop culture events: TV Series, Movies, Music, Events, Arts. Pop culture news is a great source of inspiration for your content. It’s also very hard to track. You’ll have to bookmark concerts and events booking services, world sports booking calendar and social gatherings platforms. For TV series, IMDB rating provides accurate and timely information.

Don’t be discouraged by the seemingly “light-hearted” nature of pop culture. B2B brands can check out this video made by Hootsuite where the brand imitates The Game of Thrones opening credits to tell the story of a war between major social media channels:

4. Schedule monthly and weekly content calendar revisions. Even if you regularly monitor stories and news, it’s impossible to catch every single event. To decrease the chances of missing something important, have monthly and weekly revisions of your calendar, preferably with team members. Get together at the beginning of each week, review your calendar and schedule as much content based on anticipated events and trending news as possible.

5. Add value. Your content must be original and not a spin-off of a trending topic. That way you’ll be establishing your own expert brand image on top of generating positive emotions inherent to the stories.

Here’s how you can add value to your content piece:

  • Provide a personal spin – don’t be afraid of opinionated pieces. When all the angles of the story have already been covered, you can generate more curiosity by giving your personal opinion.
  • Use humor – play with trending topics and show your humorous side that amplifies audience excitement while highlighting the product.
  • Enhance the impact of the message with design. Create a visual representation of the story. Custom illustrations, graphics and collages are a great way to put a twist on a popular story. You can easily transform the stories into visually impactful messages using the provided templates in DesignBold.

Always remember that newsjacking isn’t meant to promote your product. The goal is to provide value, and sales are the side effect.

6. If you missed the event, capitalize on the topic with a long-form piece. If you happened to miss the event that was highly relevant to your brand, you can still benefit from the increased interest by writing a long-form content piece. Cover different sides of the story, provide your own analysis and present new information or facts. If the story was powerful enough, the audience will maintain a high level of interest for a long period of time. By finding new information and presenting it to the audience along with the background story and your opinion, you will save people time on research.

7. Choose your sources wisely. Fake news is real. The last thing you want to do is present your audience with a wrong story and undermine your customers’ trust. Restoring lost trust is even harder than the first time. Even content based on social and sports events needs to be double-checked for logistical details: dates, location, time, and participants. If your audience trusts you enough, they won’t bother checking the information and you might find yourself in the fire of fan’s contempt.

8. Avoid newsjacking irrelevant to the brand. Just because a story is huge on social media, doesn’t mean that you should create content around it. Be sensitive to your sources and chosen stories. Avoid news that has religious, political or environmental connotations. These kinds of news usually have two or more furiously opposed camps and you’ll be pressured to choose sides.