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Unless you're living under a rock, you've likely heard that Britain welcomed its new royal baby on Monday. With reporters camped outside St. Mary's hospital in London for days, live feeds on the website of every major news outlet, and front page coverage around the globe, it's been a difficult news cycle to avoid.

And it's not just traditional coverage we're seeing. On Monday alone, the hashtag #RoyalBaby was used more than 900,000 times on Twitter.

The media frenzy has given businesses an opportunity to engage with consumers. Brands have come up with creative ways to leverage this breaking news through clever marketing stunts intended to capitalize on the excitement. The most successful ones left room in their budgets for the unexpected.

The changing nature of social media requires marketers to be flexible and ready to act fast when big news cycles happen. The royal wedding was another great example: the businesses that found a budget and moved quickly succeeded. Companies that engage their audiences beyond a tweet are the ones that garner significant return on investment at a time when consumers are emotionally charged.

It's why we're seeing more brands create what's called an 'opportunity fund.'

Knowing they can't plan for everything a year in advance as part of the typical corporate budgeting process, marketers are now starting to hold back portions for unexpected opportunities during natural and unpredictable news cycles.

Smart brands such as Kraft and Pampers developed relevant campaigns related to the royal baby that clearly required additional, unplanned budget to effectively engage with this global news.

Kraft's Baby-Cakes cupcakes – which reveal blue filling for a boy and pink for a girl – were timely and stayed true to their brand. Pampers got in on the action with its Royal Baby Blanket that encouraged consumers to send warm wishes to the new baby and made a donation to a family support charity for each wish.

Other unplanned news cycles that often earn national attention are crises. These are situations that also require a lot of sensitivity but it's another area where we're starting to witness this trend. During the recent floods in Calgary, Tim Hortons was one of many brands to respond quickly, launching the 'Alberta Rose' doughnut, sold in Alberta locations with all proceeds going toward flood efforts.

Another smart time to respond is during a hyper-local community event. Canadian Tire, a client of mine, proved the value of this last summer when it pledged $50,000 toward helping rebuild a playground in Toronto's High Park after it was destroyed by a fire. Not only did Canadian Tire donate the funds, it also offered volunteers and hosted a community weekend. This created an emotional connection with its existing and potential customers.

All the planning in the world will never offer the kind of ROI brands earn when they engage with a natural news cycle or in a trending conversation. Smart marketers are seeing the value and changing the way they plan.

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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