This headline is BULLSH*T: How Click Bait Headlines Have Become Our Worst Nightmare

You’re guilty of it; you know you are. You see a headline in your daily newsfeed that sounds controversial or so off-the-wall that you just can’t resist.

“How this Kim Kardashian lookalike is building the next great app”

This is click bait.

My personal favorite publication for finding these types of headlines? BuzzFeed. And it seems I’m not the only one. According to Quantcast from May 15 – June 13, 2016 BuzzFeed had nearly 440 million global visits to the site.

Buzzfeed has led the way for other news publications looking to get in on the “click action” and completely revolutionize their publishing practices. There are also quite a few publications that actually change the headline every few hours to see what works best.

But, how many times have you clicked on the link only to be disappointed with how the content didn’t match its title?

In the PR industry we are seeing this more and more. As more reporters are eager for the fleeting fame of a viral headline and freelancers are being paid by publications on a “per click” basis, this has become commonplace. Not to mention the pressure put on staff reporters that just want to keep their jobs. It’s a problem. I say problem because most of the time these titles turn negative. In fact, according to a study by Outbrain the average click-through rate on headlines with negative superlatives including “never,” “bad” or “worst” was an overwhelming 63 percent higher than positive ones (“always” and “best”).

Every PR professional can attest to this. You wake up to a client Google Alert and the headline is negative. You have a mild heart attack and start thinking about what you plan to tell the client when they call you at 7am. That is until you actually start reading the content. “Well, this isn’t so bad.” But try to convince a client of that. The headlines are all that matter, or are they?

Is it time to start expecting these click bait headlines more and just alter our approach? I’m going to go with what the amazing Bradley Cooper did in his Oscar-winning film and find the silver lining.

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  1. The more clicks the article gets the more people that read it, the more people that have been exposed to your brand.
  2. Thinking in the “click bait” mindset can actually get you some great pitch ideas.
  3. Let’s just face it…they are entertaining as hell.

The fact of the matter is that this is the new world order, and just like everything in PR, it will continue to evolve. Do I see this going anywhere anytime soon? Absolutely not. Sex sells, and so do catchy headlines.

#PRmyths – It’s All About Media Relations

2005: Media! Media! Media!

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Ten years ago, PR and media relations may have been close to synonymous, but the role of a PR professional has evolved extensively. We’ve moved beyond the focus on media to assume a more strategic role at the heart of all communications.

2015: PR as a strategic marketing partner

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If your PR plan doesn’t have a media, social and content play, then it’s missing some critical components. Each of these should tie into each other. We are constantly working to guide our clients to create compelling content that can then be used for media and social. These areas of communications should no longer be operating in silos.

Check back every day this week for another PR myth debunked, and chime in on Twitter with the hashtags #PRmyths and #TheNewNorm.

SXSW by the Photos: B&O’s Austin Adventure

Also by Suzi Owens 

Just this past weekend, we had the amazing opportunity to travel to SXSW. Instead of telling you in words what we were up to, we thought it would be best to show you…

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Making our way to Austin… Suzi came prepared with the proper local footwear.

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We knew we were in the right place once we saw this sign.

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Forget Lyft and Uber – local transportation was best riding on the back of one of these bad boys. However, there was a bit of pedicab traffic…

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The biggest thing to come out of SXSW this year? Definitely Meerkat. Here is Mashable’s very own CEO Pete Cashmore meerkatting… We even heard his marketing team say they received 1,000 viewers watching live. Crazy!

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#SXSWPuppyParty, courtesy of Whistle, DogVacay and iFetch. Took every ounce of willpower not to sneak that little guy home in our carry-ons.

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The busiest location at SXSW had to be the MashableHouse. With Katy Perry’s Super Bowl lion (see above and below) and some other amazing things, it was the most popular house on the block. Even Hulk Hogan stopped by.

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We couldn’t let Pete have all the fun obviously.

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The best ride of the event though, was courtesy of the HootBike. A way to travel, network and had enjoy some fresh air with Owly.

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Psycho fans were in luck as A&E recreated the Bates Motel. A great portrayal of Norman Bates’ thriller series.

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Trying our luck with the Pepsi fortune teller. Hey, at least we got a free Pepsi out of it!

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Also, ever wondered what happened to the pink moustache of Lyft? Guess it needed to evolve, according to CEO Logan Green, who explained the brand shake-up in his keynote with The Wall Street Journal’s Doug Macmillan. Pictured here courtesy of @dmac1 who tweeted, “I ordered Lyft & @logangreen showed up in a Bentley.”

All in all, while we didn’t get any Bentley rides, we had an amazing trip. Spent time with great people and even had a little bit of fun…as you can see.

What OkCupid and Other Dating Sites Can Teach You About Media Relations

Fact: There are 54.3 million single people in the U.S.

Fact: 41.3 million people in the U.S. have tried online dating

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Are you surprised by these stats? I was. Even living in Silicon Valley – where online dating is pretty much the norm – I was still amazed to see that 76 percent of single people have tried it. Assuming of course that not too many “taken” people are trying their luck online.

A recent conversation with a friend currently navigating the online dating seas got me thinking. He was talking about his “approach” to communication on OkCupid and my PR mind couldn’t help but drift to how much of a parallel there is between the approach one takes to online dating and the approach for media relations.

So I decided what better topic for a blog post, right?

Know Your Goal

First and foremost, a person should know what they are hoping to accomplish in terms of a relationship. Are you just looking for casual dating or are you ready to settle down? The answer to this may change which online dating site you should select. Tinder has a notorious reputation for being casual. Match.com is known for more serious relationships – just take a look at this Reddit thread.

How does this relate back to media relations? Well, the first thing you need to consider is what media goal you are trying to accomplish for your client. If they are eager to get in front of C-level folks, then business press is where you should go. If they are keener to reach the line of business group then you should pitch the story to HR, sales, finance and other specific vertical publications.

Selecting the Right Target

The fun has only just begun. Once you’ve identified the site that best suits your needs, it’s time to go fishing. You can scroll for days and days trying to find which matches tickle your fancy. You’re looking for someone who likes yoga, hiking and wine tasting. Honestly, that shouldn’t be too hard to find in the Bay Area, but maybe you also want someone that has a specific quirk or a creative “About Me.”

As is the case when selecting the characteristics that make up your perfect mate, selecting the right media person to start a conversation with begins with selecting the right publication. Then comes the harder task of narrowing it down and finding which writer is most relevant to the story you are pitching. Media often complain to PR people about receiving pitches that have nothing to do with their beat. So make sure to do your research and pick the reporter who would actually cover the story!

Grab Their Attention

Short and punchy? Long and heartfelt? What’s the best way to grab your new online interest’s attention? Be creative!

Same rules apply with media, although I’m pretty sure a reporter at Bloomberg would not appreciate a long, heartfelt pitch. This goes back to doing your research. Use what you do know about the reporter or fellow online dater to craft a personal note that makes them feel special. A generic email you can mass-send to potential matches rarely works as well as a tailored, specific pitch for each individual.

The Follow Up

Now this one threw me for a loop. My guy friend said that sometimes a girl will respond to him once and then go silent. “What the heck?” I said, at first.

But then I thought, “Wait…I know exactly what he’s talking about.” Ever get a response to your pitch saying they’re interested in speaking to your client, but then when you follow up with availability they no longer respond? I’m never really sure about what happens here but I try to get creative in my follow up notes. No, I’m not one of those PR people that simply keep sending emails saying “just following up on my previous note.” Try relating back to something they just wrote and get the conversation going that way.

In both online dating and media follow up, maybe check back in once or twice, but if you don’t hear anything the message should be loud and clear: MOVE ON.

The Pay Off

Bam! You’ve started a conversation with the lucky dater and secured the coveted in-person meeting. The hard work is mostly over.

The same goes for finally securing that phone or in-person briefing with a reporter. You are on the line, listening to your client give the company elevator pitch, and you’re just thanking your lucky stars that both joined the conference line on time.

Now if you especially lucky, the meeting leads to a follow-up date (also known as an amazing article)…but don’t bank on it. Nothing’s a 100 percent when it comes to dating or the media.

Show Interest

Even though you got the pay off, your work isn’t done. It’s important to now nurture the relationship. With online dating, that is if you liked the person, maintain that communication and set up another date.

With media, keep the lines of communication open. Shoot them notes every now and again commenting on an article they just wrote and offering your perspective or flagging a piece of news you think they would be interested in writing about. The best relationships media have with PR folks are beneficial for both parties; the same can be said for partner relationships.

Well, you get the gist. If you need to work on your media relations, head on over to an online dating site and put your skills to the test.

Yik-ity Yak … What the hell is that?

Yik Yak, y'all! (Screenshot from www.yikyakapp.com)
Yik Yak, y’all! (Screenshot from http://www.yikyakapp.com)

First there was Facebook. Then Twitter. Then Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat and now, an entirely new beast. Chances are that, unless you’re roaming the halls of a high school or college campus, you haven’t heard of Yik Yak.

Lucky for you, I’m about to give the 411. In a nutshell, Yik Yak is a mobile app that offers anonymous, location-based messaging. Users can anonymously create short posts called “yaks” and can view other yaks posted within a 1.5 mile radius from their location. Posts can then be up- or down-voted and have a lifespan of 100 days before expiring. One of my esteemed colleagues referred to it as “Reddit meets Twitter.”

The app is currently active at more than 1,000 colleges and universities worldwide and the company also raised $1.5 million in funding last April, followed by $10 million in June.

This built-in user base and growing popularity will make Yik Yak a discussion topic among marketers and PR professionals looking to increase visibility with this audience. As the buzz around this app continues to increase, it will only be a matter of time before we start receiving client emails asking if this new channel is worth investing in.

This blog post is our attempt at being ahead of the curve.

First off, let’s discuss the potential problems. Any app or social media tool that lets users post anonymously can be dangerous. Yik Yak specifically has been criticized for being an incubator for bullying and threats. Additionally, yaks range from jokes to complaining about finals or spreading the word about a house party. The content isn’t more than just a fun distraction, but I guess the same could be said for most tweets.

Now for the good and why marketers and PR folks should pay attention. Yik Yak is still in its infancy, but has already taken steps to help combat the problems. Its founders have aspirational goals for the app to set it apart from other apps like Whisper and Secret, specifically when it comes to breaking news.

With this exact goal in mind, it recently launched a new feature, Peek Anywhere, that lets you check out what’s happening at a destination of your choosing. You may say “Well, Twitter already does that.” But Twitter doesn’t have a great way to filter tweets based on geography. Sure, you can search via hashtag, but that means you get everyone tweeting on the topic, not everyone at the scene of the event.

What does this mean for us now? Short answer: Nothing.

Right now, Yik Yak is too nascent to take seriously. However, it does have the right formula in place to become legitimate later on. With the new funding it may well expand and develop services and features that prove useful in the communications field.

After all, before a “tweet” was a “tweet” it seemed to be 140 characters of ranting and/or useless information. Granted, Twitter is still full of useless posts, from play-by-play accounts of one’s daily activities to garbled spambot posts to tweets consisting of only hashtags; yet, it is seen as a valuable news source.

If Yik Yak evolves and matures the way we hope it will, it could deliver brands the following benefits:

  • Location, location, location: Marketers pay big bucks for location targeting alone and accuracy has always been an issue. 1.5 miles? That’s accurate.
  • Targeted demographic: At this point, Yik Yak is targeting 18-23 year-olds. People pay a lot of money for this crowd (see Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp earlier this year). If it continues on this journey, marketers can use this to listen in, honing in on what this audience cares about. This, along with location, has the potential for better-targeted marketing and communications.
  • Conversation monitoring: A brand can track what is being said about it in a specific location. Say a McDonald’s franchise is receiving a bunch of flack on Yik Yak, the brand sees this and takes action to make corrections. Think of the customer service angle on Twitter but with anonymity.

I expect Yik Yak to become a real tool for marketers in a year or two, provided they stay on the right track. Until then, we’ll keep digging through Facebook, Twitter and other such haystacks for that one needle of insight.

Play Ball! Why PR and Baseball Aren’t So Different

Opening Day for our home team, the San Francisco Giants, has finally arrived and Lou Seal is ready to bring another championship to the Bay. In the spirit of grand slams, hot dogs and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” here are nine things PR and baseball have in common:

  1. The Double Play. You know what’s better than getting one client in an article? Getting two. Same goes for America’s pastime: a double play lets you kill two birds with one stone.
Top: Neil Desai and Christine Pai Bottom: Drew Smith and Danielle Tarp
Top: Neil Desai and Christine Pai
Bottom: Drew Smith and Danielle Tarp

2. Perform well under pressure. PR professionals know that there are rarely days that are stress free. That’s why the first lesson learned in PR is keep calm. No one knows this better than a pitcher in a bases loaded situation.

Emilie Gerber
Emilie Gerber

3. Not every pitch is a strike. Sometimes a story we pitch to a reporter won’t always be right down the middle. But you can bet the next ball we throw WILL be a strike.

Bill Rundle
Bill Rundle

4. The lineup. Each PR professional will play to their strength, just like Jeff Kent batting clean up behind Barry Bonds for their glory years. The best players will know where and when to assert themselves.

Team photo
L-R: Jen Smith, Joan Touchstone, Kristin Reeves, Simon Jones, Drew Smith, Neil Desai, Charlie Passero, Neil Torres, Danielle Tarp

5. The manager. Each team needs its fearless leader. The San Francisco Giants have Bruce Bochy and we have Josh Reynolds.

L-R: Kristin Reeves, Megan Gregorio, Stephanie Kays, Josh Reynolds (Coach), Natalie Pridham, Colette Keane, Bill Rundle
L-R: Kristin Reeves, Megan Gregorio, Stephanie Kays, Josh Reynolds (Coach), Natalie Pridham, Colette Keane, Bill Rundle

6. Shake things off. In PR and baseball, you’ll have your good days and your bad. An angry reporter versus a bad hitting day. We need to learn to brush it off.

7. Practice makes perfect. It takes time to master PR and baseball. The more you work at it, the better you’ll be.

Andrew Padgett
Andrew Padgett

8. Know who you’re up against. Before you throw a pitch, know the success your opponent has hitting a curveball. Tim Lincecum knows better than to throw Adrian Gonzalez a pitch down the middle, or it will end up in the bleachers. Don’t launch your client’s product until you understand the industry and know the competition.

L-R: Suzi Owens and Stephanie Kays
L-R: Suzi Owens and Stephanie Kays

9. Sometimes it’s just about the beer. Enough said…

L-R: Charlie Passero, Megan Gregorio, Drew Smith, Ivy Chen
L-R: Charlie Passero, Megan Gregorio, Drew Smith, Ivy Chen