The instantaneous nature of the Internet has brought about many things, among them the free flow of information in real time around the world. No longer dependent on traditional and slower forms of media, news can set alight on the World Wide Web and spread across countries and continents within seconds.

This wildfire exploding from a single flame is something that the New England Patriots know too well. In January 2015, the team used underinflated footballs in the NFL American Football Conference Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Observers were quick to point out that underinflated balls can be easier to throw, catch, and grip giving the Patriots an unfair advantage. Within minutes #DeflateGate was trending on social media and various news outlets picked up the phrase for non-stop coverage of the issue.

It didn’t take long after that for brands to jump on the bandwagon and adopt the hashtag. Companies like Krispy Kreme and Michelin all used #DeflateGate to promote their products. It offered a free, topical, and global opportunity to hijack a news event for their own benefit. There are lessons in this for your brand, too.

Hijacking the news allows brands to seize the moment in real time and piggyback on a widely known activity to gain increased attention and publicity. With some clever copywriting and fast work, it’s possible to align your company with the most talked about news story of the week at virtually no cost to you.

Though this strategy only works if you can make a legitimate link between the news article and your brand. You must also be quick, hijacking the news requires you to be agile and give the same urgency to this technique as you would to crisis communications. Being quick to bring your strategy to market also helps you leverage visibility with journalists who may be doing research for their coverage of the actual news event.

Using big news as a hook in pitches to get coverage in news outlets and increase your results on search engines. Keeping a close eye on current events and signing up for news alerts on various topics linked to your business will help you stay on top of things and be able to strike when the iron is hot.

Every hot story in the news is an opportunity to create your own content via blog posts, videos, advertisements, infographics, press releases, social media campaigns, and other activities. Whether you operate your own small business or work in a larger corporation, understanding and utilizing these tactics can greatly increase your brand awareness and visibility at very little cost to you.