What is clickbait?
It has drastically changed the way news websites and social media feeds look – but what is clickbait, and what does it mean for PRs like us where media relations is so central?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines clickbait as “content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.
E.g. these recent reports of the show’s imminent demise are hyperbolic clickbait.”
This delicate art of carefully stacking facts and providing just the right amount of information, in the right order, is helping publishers generate serious revenue.
How? By securing good traffic volumes, dwell times and bounce rates which attract advertisers.
What does clickbait mean for PRs?
Press releases provide journalists with ready-to-go content that can be simply dropped onto the page with minimal edits, so PRs need to master the art of writing clickbait-style articles themselves.
How do you make your press releases and email pitches clickbait worthy?
We have put together a list of four key features of clickbait, which can be incorporated into your own pitches and press releases.
Clickbait story structures:
With most clickbait stories, the four Ws of news writing (who, what, where, why) – which would’ve previously appeared in the first 2 paragraphs – are now cascaded down throughout the piece.
In some (particularly frustrating) cases the reader will only discovers the full crux of the story in the final paragraphs.
The difficulty for PRs here is that journalists are very much time poor and in need of scannable content, and so care should be taken to ensure you strike the right balance and avoid wasting their time.
They’re no longer catchy, snappy or pun-based.
With clickbait, the emphasis is all on luring you in as much as possible, e.g.: “Guy proposes to girlfriend. You won’t BELIEVE what happens next”
“We tried XXX product for a month – this is what happened”
“These five foods will change your life”
For PRs, this means including a curiosity-piquing email subject that lures journalists in and doesn’t give the full story away.
Sensationalism and clickbait:
Certain red-topped newspapers have always guilty of running stories which inflate or over-exaggerate the facts. But in the past few years, a wider range of publications are adopting this approach to lure in readers.
Rather than seeking to represent the truth in an engaging way, writers are over-dramatising the facts.
Headlines and intros quite often imply drama, only for the last paragraph to reveal an unsurprising or disappointing fact.
Again, for PRs, a delicate balance needs to be struck here. PR involves a certain degree of spin, but no journalist wants to be pitched a complete non-story, so discretion is advised.
Clickbait and the rise of the listicle:
5 ways to… 3 things you didn’t know about… 4 places you must… It’s hard to avoid these kinds of features.
In most cases, they are image heavy and text light.
It is best to utilise the appetite for these kinds of stories within verbal or email pitches to journalists. Suggest themes for listicles, which your clients’ content/brand/product/services fit within.
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