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Forget clickbait, it’s about sharebait and what does that really mean for PRs?

A recent study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, revealed 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked on. Essentially the majority of people retweet news stories without ever actually reading them first.

 
“People are more willing to share an article than read it,” study co-author Arnaud Legout said in a statement. “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”

 
But if consumers are reading fewer print publications than ever before, and online articles are judged on the merit of their headline alone, what does that mean for marketers and PRs? If your killer news story is shared boundlessly across the Internet, what does success look like when less than half of those links have actually been clicked on?

 
In some ways it brings PR back to its simplest and most skilled execution; it’s about creating headlines. That doesn’t now mean one that intrigues, thus inviting the reader to take a deeper look, but one that summarises everything about the story in one easily digestible, and shareable sentence; something which should be achievable with any great news story anyway. News generation is back in a big way and is more important than ever, as long as it fits into 140 characters.

 
It also puts a greater emphasis on media relations and journalist relationships; ensuring your story is summarised and positioned in a way which ensures your messaging is perfectly communicated without any ambiguity.

 
The sheer volume of ‘stuff’ on the Internet has essentially given rise to content which doesn’t require too much of its consumer’s time and brainpower. This is undoubtedly why the rise of emojis in place of words, memes instead of actual emotion, and snappy film content has dominated our social feeds over the past year or so.

 
And this is where the greatest challenge and opportunity lies for PRs. As gatekeepers of a brand’s voice, personality and values, creating content to do this naturally lies with us. For our clients, this means incorporating content creation into every campaign we do. Whether that’s recipe films, memes or killer photography. Our PR heads work hard to create assets which can be used in an editorial capacity, but it’s also about engaging and growing the social communities we cultivate on their behalf.

 
PR has always been an industry which has to constantly evolve. The future, as we see it, maintains great emphasis on the skills at the heart of our industry, but it also calls for new skills and a new mind-set which goes beyond third party endorsement and reaches the consumer directly through creative content development. Sharebait isn’t a concern so much as the latest challenge for us to rise to.