These two facts about ‘clickbait’ will change the way you look at PR campaigns

These two facts about ‘clickbait’ will change the way you look at PR campaigns

Austin Brailey

Austin Brailey

Clickbait is a term used to describe eye-catching links, which encourage people to click through to view a piece of content.

Attracting as many visitors as possible is vital for selling advertising for most online publications and brands are always looking to get as many potential customers to visit their virtual store fronts as possible. Combine this with the trend for Twitter and LinkedIn increasingly being used to ‘sign-post’ to content and it’s easy to see why ‘clickbait’ is becoming an important art form.

This has a knock on effect for PRs.

Below are three stories from our Firewire news roundup last Monday, which is designed to give readers a quick overview of the news. They pretty much tell you all you need to know at a top level, as traditional headlines are meant to do:

  • Insurance bill is putting off young drivers (The Times)
  • Netflix signs up more than one in 10 British households (The Telegraph)
  • UK hiring plans at 16-year high, according to BDO report (BBC News)

They don’t exactly provide huge incentive to click through - unless this is a topic area that you're already interested in.

Conversely, the three headlines below from Buzzfeed tell the reader very little:

  • 17 Things Everyone Waiting For Exam Results Will Understand
  • 13 Awkward Moments Everyone Has At The Doctor’s Office
  • This Old Man’s Attempt At The Running Man Will Make You Want To Put On Your Dancing Shoes And Join Him

This new style of attracting visitors is working. Quick simply, it's enticingly clickable.

Buzzfeed announced it raised $50m last week and the style is beginning to creep into the UK’s biggest national papers and news sites.

And it's not just about writing list-based stories.

Even headlining this blogpost "two facts about 'clickbait'" is more likely to make you read it. Would you have been as likely to click if it had read "two views about 'clickbait'"?

Why should this matter to PRs and what are the implications for brand-generated content?

Fact 1
Buzzfeed has this uncanny ability to connect with us personally, something that other media outlets - and PRs - don't often manage.

Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed's founder has talked about a "bored-at-work network". Instead of "making content that the robots like, it is more satisfying to make content that humans want to share" he commented in an interview for Wired.

He made the point that when you're having a rough day at work, seeing '13 Simple Steps To Get You Through A Rough Day', serves an emotional need, as does "look at this hedgehog wearing a tiny hat" because it cheers you up; then you share it with your friends and before you know it, the content is spreading like wildfire.

The lesson here for us PRs is to think about what really matters to audiences on a personal level and not what we think 'should' matter. What makes their day just that little bit better? What makes it as easy as possible for them to pay attention to what we're doing?

Fact 2
Breaking news isn’t everything. Despite many fearing that an ever-increasing race to be the first to report on a news story is compromising accuracy, the likes of Buzzfeed have carved out a niche by providing a different take than everyone else.

As an example, this week has seen a lot of controversy, and press attention, around an 'inappropriately sexualised' front cover for a new release of, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.

The Telegraph tweeted: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover condemned as 'creepy', 'grotesque' and 'inappropriately sexualised'” accompanied by a picture of the cover and a link. There was no need for anyone with only a passing interest to click through (I didn’t).

Buzzfeed ran its usual style of story with: ‘14 Disturbing New Covers For Classic Children’s Books’. Approaching the story not just from news perspective, but contextualising it and piquing readers' curiosity.

However, The Guardian reported the news AND did a ‘The five worst book covers ever’ feature.

This is only an example, but for PRs, there is a real opportunity to contextualise and add something beyond the immediate ‘news’ in a different way than has been traditionally done in news analysis pieces. Buzzfeed style content that provides easily digestible information that relates to the reader personally and/or piques their curiosity.

BuzzFeed has raised 30m of new funding from VCs to become a “pre-eminent media company” – it must be doing something right. PRs should learn from this new way of delivering content and (assuming this is the goal) even driving traffic to client websites.

And, if all else fails we can always use this handy headline generator.

Modern Headline Builder


Share this story:

Read more from the blog


Does cybersecurity have a comms problem?

Cybersecurity is crucial in today's world. However, many people still struggle to understand what it involves - is poor comms to blame? ...Read more

Alexandra Kourakis
Alexandra Kourakis

Avoiding the pitfalls of impulsive PR

While it is tempting to be part of the hottest media topics of the day, businesses should be wary of getting involved in conversations they really shouldn’t be ...Read more

Matthew Healey
Matthew Healey

Setting Sail: Navigating the Business Seas with Reputation

In the vast and often turbulent waters of the business world, organisations must navigate through ever-changing currents, unpredictable storms, and shifting tides. ...Read more

Selina Jardim
Selina Jardim

Add a comment

Time limit exceeded. Please complete the captcha once again.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

We operate in London, Paris and Munich, and have a network of like-minded partners across the globe.

Get in touch

Sign up to Spark, our newsletter

Receive thought pieces from our leadership team, views on the news, tool of the month and light relief for comms folk

You can unsubscribe at any time, please read our privacy policy for more information