Media Relations in the Clickbait Era


They’re everywhere. In your inbox, on your newsfeed. Clickbait headlines have consumed digital publications and social channels, but where did the concept come from? Why are media outlets using them? And what impact do they have on media relations?

Back in the 1890s, during the Spanish-American war, William Randolf Hearst (New York Journal) and Joseph Pulitzer (World) began focusing on melodramatic, exaggerated, sensationalist headlines to get attention.

These stories would often have little to no factual merit, but the content was so emotionally and visually stimulating that it piqued the curiosity of readers. As the media war between Heart’s New York Journal and Pulitzer’s World escalated, their sensationalist tactics gave birth to what is now referred to as “yellow journalism.”

Clickbait is the Internet’s yellow journalism. With the number of digital publications on the rise, players in the digital media world are constantly warring with one another for impressions. Websites resort to using sensationalist headlines to increase page impressions, seemingly increasing the desirability and advertising value of their websites.

Though the value placed on number of impressions a website receives has become less significant than unique visits and qualified leads it produces, for some reason in digital media high impression counts still equates more advertising dollars.

This need for impressions also heavily impacts public relations activities. After all, the higher the AVE (Advertising Value Equivalency) of an article, the more successful the article placement is considered to be.

Here are some examples of types of clickbait headlines digital publications are throwing into the fray:

Bait and Switch—Headlines that make the article appear to be about something that it’s not. At all.

Curiosity Gap—Headlines that pique the interest of a reader because they feel like they may not know the answer, or to validate that they’re right. An example of this is “she mixes baking soda and vinegar and you won’t believe what happens!” (We all know what actually happens)

You’ll never guess what the next big thing in PR is!

Rage-lines— Headlines purposely crafted to instill rage in readers, thus enticing them to click and comment. These headlines tend to be more political in nature and typically evoke strong, negative emotions in readers.

How does the public feel about clickbait?

Many readers are generally aware of clickbait, and can easily identify it. So if a publication is consistently employing clickbait tactics, readers are less likely to see that publication as a valuable resource (or are less likely to click on articles).

This means that journalists also need to fight to develop creative, compelling headlines that are not only intriguing to click on, but won’t make the reader feel short-changed. This in turn could lead to negative feelings, which may increase the number of bounces a web page receives, or could even garner a lot of negative feedback and backlash in the comments.

Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule (see: and Some people will willingly give in to clickbait because they find the content to be amusing.

What does clickbait mean for PR and journalist relations?

Journalists can lose credibility
Clickbait doesn’t only affect a publication as a whole. Public relations professionals may be wary of pitching to a journalist in fear that it may impact their client’s credibility. Or it may become difficult to conduct esteemed interviews if the journalist’s reputation is already tarnished. Reputation is incredibly important to journalists, and using unjustified sensationalism can have a deep impact on their credibility and relations with other media professionals.

Public relations professionals need to pitch compelling stories, not headlines
Public relations professionals still need to prove to the world that they aren’t spin doctors, and that they have compelling information to share with the public. That’s why when pitching to journalists, PR professionals need to provide compelling information that doesn’t need sensationalism to be interesting.

Journalists should be mindful of PR professionals and their clients when crafting articles
It goes both ways. Journalists need to be mindful of how they choose to present a PR professional’s story, and to make sure that they uphold the integrity and credibility of the agency and/or company.

TL;DR: PR professionals and journalists need to work together to minimize sensationalism to maintain the integrity of media relations and to decrease the use of clickbait-headlines.

More reading:

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How crowdsourcing has altered our views on corporate intelligence

crowd sourcing

Most would agree the Internet is probably the most disruptive technology of the 20th century, if not all time.

Why? Because it facilitates ideas and communications in nanoseconds, along with mass collaboration. And it’s this mass collaboration that has turbocharged the pace of innovation.

This collaboration — commonly referred to as crowdsourcing — has turned entire industries on their heads overnight.

Uber and other ridesharing technologies are changing the way people view transportation and even food delivery. Google’s accessible technology has allowed business teams in both small shops and larger companies to work on business-related documents collaboratively, at the same time.

Other platforms, such as 99designs, have even allowed companies to rapidly create corporate branding in days as opposed to in months at a fraction of the cost.

But what about business intelligence?

At MediaMiser, we generate our own business intelligence by leveraging media data and our own technology.

We have both manual and automated processes to ensure almost nothing escapes our attention. But there are of course times when information may be missed, simply because we live in a time where technologies and even rules can change overnight. Somehow, companies have to account for this change.

This is where firms can leveraging crowdsourcing techniques.

You don’t even have to be a technology company to do this, because crowdsourcing is not necessarily all about technology. Rather, technology facilitates lightning fast communication in collaborative environment.

Rather, crowdsourcing is more of a way of thinking: A good, well-oiled team can outwork and outthink an individual no matter how smart any one person is, or how hard they work.

The diversity of thinking within a crowdsourced team allows it to rise above that of most individuals.

“The power of crowdsourcing always remains with the crowd, not the technological implementation.” – Jay Samit, CEO of SeaChange International

Having said all this, it’s crowdsourcing that allows MediaMiser’s media intelligence gathering to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape. On the flip side, it’s the technology’s job to bring information together and help organize such a vast array of viewpoints into useful business intelligence.

For example, a salesperson in our company recently crowdsourced some media intelligence that was used to help determine the direction of some of our technology. This kind of intel would typically come from our research and development team, but that’s the advantage of leveraging the diversity of a collective — you never know where ideas (or in this case, intelligence) will come from.

Everyone has different experiences and perspectives, and it’s this fundamental understanding that is creating mass change in both business and technology.

We’d love to hear your views and experiences on crowdsourcing. Feel free to contact us to share stories or learn more about our own crowdsourcing experiences. 

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CAA’s Ontario’s Worst Roads: GTA, Timmins drive record participation

CAA worst roads

When complaining to coworkers about your commute, the latest data from CAA’s Ontario’s Worst Roads campaign may give you more cred—and mitigate any soul searching that stems from Jekyll and Hyde fits of road rage.

For the second year in a row, MediaMiser partnered with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) on an infographic raising awareness for “the need for repaired or improved roads” in Ontario communities.

More than 2,000 of the province’s bumpiest roads were nominated in a contest that saw a 26-per-cent year-over-year increase in participation. CAA also introduced a slew of regional top five lists this year, to accompany the typical top 10 list that appears each year.

And the result? The GTA and Timmins appear to be home of 2015’s roughest commutes, with Algonquin Blvd West in Timmins beating out Toronto’s much-maligned Dufferin St—the reigning champion for the last three years.

MediaMiser used its Enterprise monitoring and analysis software to drill down into both traditional and social media mentions of the initiative, including audience reach, total articles and circulation.

Almost half of the top 10 have appeared on the provincial list at least four times previously.

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#TORW2015: a review of Canada’s largest road race weekend on Twitter

Team Awesome TORW2015

Over May 23 and 24, 49,000-plus runners and more than 100,000 spectators took to the streets of Ottawa, MediaMiser’s hometown, to participate in what is hailed as the largest and most prestigious running event weekend in Canada: Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

This event is also the city’s largest revenue generator from a tourism perspective, and features an IAAF Gold Label 10K, one of only four in the world.

Not only was I a (very excited) participant in the weekend’s Scotiabank Half-Marathon event, but was also honoured to be invited to be part of the event’s inaugural #TeamAwesome—a group of 22 runners dedicated to celebrating and motivating other Race Weekend competitors, as well as sharing their ongoing training experiences through social media.

For fun, we decided to take a look at the weekend’s top 10 influencers on Twitter to see how Team Awesome did and identify which other participants were busy tweeting about the event (and, honestly, to see if I made the list)!


As you can see from the chart above, six out of the top 10 influencers belong to Team Awesome. Here at MediaMiser we’ve been talking a lot lately about successful brand advocacy programs, and Team Awesome is a shining example of just that. Congratulations to my teammates, and it looks like I need to step up my Twitter game for next year!

For fairness, we removed any handles from the list that exclusively used the latest cool new tracking tool —SportStats— with which runners and spectators alike can track results and push updates to Twitter or Facebook. Race directors and event planners take note: this feature is a great way to ramp up an event’s presence on social media, and potentially encourage a trending topic.

What I’ve always found fascinating about large scale road races, is that it’s the only sport in the world where the average person can have a crowd of supporters cheering you on and calling out your name (because it’s on your bib) as you run the course with world-class athletes. It’s truly an amazing and positive experience—and one worthy of sharing on social media.

Brand Advocacy Whitepaper

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BNN’s The Disruptors: Financial Technology, crowdsourced lending, and what it means for the banking industry

financial district

The banking and financial industry are not immune to disruption and this was the focus on this week’s The Disruptors, on BNN.

The show focused mainly on three companies: Payso, a company looking to disrupt your wallet; Grouplend, which crowdsources loans; and Financeit, a company attempting to change financing through technology.

But what does all this disruption mean for traditional banks and financial institutions?

There seemed to be a consensus with co-hosts Bruce Croxon and Amber Kanwar that the big banks will always be valued for their security and stability, and regulations will always influence change. But there’s no doubt that technology will ultimately change behaviours — especially with the proliferation of mobile- and cloud-based technology.

“What we’re seeing is that (with the emergence of) cloud and mobile, the new consumer wants to be treated differently, and the companies that can give them what (consumers) need are going to be the companies that are going to be successful,” said Financeit CEO Michael Garrity on the show.

Ultimately, it may be the consumer with the last word on this as consumers further embrace technology.

Bruce Croxon summed up the entire show by stating, “it’s an unbelievable time to be a consumer.”


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Deflategate: A Case of Poorly Played Crisis Management

press conference

They’re calling it “the biggest non-domestic violence, non-murder accusation PR disaster an NFL team has faced in a very long time.”

While the press is having a field day with the fallout from Deflategate, brands are happily lining up take the metaphorical kick.

And like any good PR catastrophe, it even has its own remix.

So how did a few suspiciously under-inflated footballs inspire a news circus that just won’t quit? The answer can be traced back to the early hours of the scandal.

It was an error of strategy as much as a failure of morals,” says sportswriter Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. “Humility would have quelled the controversy, but the Patriots’ arrogance sparked it.”

A series of indignant denials — including Brady’s lapsed memory about the existence of a locker room attendant — ensured both the NFL and the press would continue their pursuit.

online news over time

As the chart above shows, mentions of Deflategate in online news stories in May have been consistent and sustained since news of the NFL’s punishment of the Pats was made public. And while article volume peaked on May 12, this past Monday still had more than 2,000 online mentions — almost all of them being negative toward the Patriots.

Even worse, a recent report from Marketing Arm’s Celebrity DBI determined that Tom Brady’s endorsement value has plummeted from 967th to 3,027th in just a few months. “Brady had been on par with celebrities like Cameron Diaz and John Hamm, but his trust level is now equivalent to that of conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly and actor Billy Bob Thornton,” according to The Score’s Caitlin Holroyd.

Kilgore says Brady should have swiftly owned up to the meddling, cut a cheque for the fine ($25,000) a week before the Super Bowl (in early February) and killed the story before the alternative compounded it into an ever-newsworthy scandal still going in May.

In the end, it seems, the Patriots broke more than a few rules with the league: they also broke the cardinal rule of crisis management, which is to react immediately and consistently with full transparency.

Brady’s blasé attitude (“this isn’t ISIS”) and the Patriots’ response were vast miscalculations, particularly given the delicate environment in which they were operating. Hot on the heels of the Ray Rice scandal, the NFL is all too aware that they’re in the red when it comes to public relations these days — and Deflategate hasn’t helped with that.

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A sneak peek at Engagement + Impact: CPRS Annual National Conference

On May 31st, hundreds of PR and Communications professionals will flood Montreal for the annual Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) conference: Engagement + Impact.

As a bronze-level sponsor and enthusiastic attendee, MediaMiser is excited to share this sneak peak of next week’s events:



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What’s the most effective and least expensive marketing tool out there? An award win.


You’ve just completed your latest book and laid it to rest on the nightstand, and now you need to take a trip to the bookshop (or visit their online store) to pick up something new.

Without anything specific in mind, you walk through the front doors of a behemoth chain store only to find yourself lost in a sea of titles. What catches your eye and makes you decide on one publication? Is it the artistic cover, the summary on the back, the snippets of quotes from reviewers? How do you ultimately conclude that this is the book you want to read?

Like many decisions we make, we want to hear how someone else’s experience has been. We need a recommendation that tells us we are going to get our money’s worth from this purchase — and in the case of literature, a seal of approval can make all the difference when making your selection. If that stamp on the cover declares a prestigious prize win, then it has to be worth reading. Having “New York Times Bestseller” emblazoned across the cover is a sure sign that this book has been read and enjoyed by the masses.

It’s no different for companies in need of assistance in public relations, communications or marketing. How do you select a firm that’s right for you? It doesn’t matter how sexy your website is or how many followers you have on Twitter. What matters most is your firm’s achievements.

Most, if not all, agencies will highlight award wins on their homepage, or a dedicated page listing all their awards and accolades. This gives the client a sense of comfort, knowing that their fate rests in the hands of a firm that has been recognized for its many accomplishments. They know when they hire you that they’re going to get the best possible service.

As long as the award carries prestige in its field and the judges hold a certain stature, this is the best and least expensive marketing tool you can find. A list of awards can go a long way in bringing in new clients and retaining your existing roster.

Here are five tips on how to put together a winning award submission:

  • Creativity and originality can speak volumes. Think outside the box and come up with something new.
  • Describe the strategy behind your campaign. This can really show how well you know your client and their audience.
  • Fast thinking and quick turnaround in a crisis situation can make all the difference. Show how you have managed to take a negative and make it a positive.
  • Execution is key to displaying how masterfully you have employed your PR techniques to make an impact.
  • Results need to be backed up with convincing metrics and analytics. Show how you increased your media outreach, social media engagement or membership.

Ensure you do your research: find reputable awards programs and enter to win. Take a little tour through your competitors’ websites and have a look at the programs they’re entering and winning. Find which categories work best for your campaign and enter them all!

Whether it’s nominating a younger member of your team for a local Forty Under 40 or Business Woman of the Year award, or a national recognition or even a large scale global initiative, many PR and communications awards programs can really be the best bang for your marketing buck.

Did you know? MediaMiser’s sister company, Bulldog Reporter, has its own PR Awards program: The Bulldog Awards. Visit to find out more.


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Are Marketing and Public Relations’ focuses too narrow? Study suggests so.


There’s no question that both marketing and PR want more C-suite influence, but according to a study by a Baylor University researcher, corporate communicators and marketing teams are often in direct competition to be in those coveted boardroom seats.

“So few seats are available that it’s often an ‘either/or’ for PR and marketing,” said study author Marlene Neill, Ph.D., assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, according to a news release. “People perceive them as quite similar,” although their responsibilities are distinctly different.

The research indicates that both groups’ focus on the C-suite is too narrow. “Everybody wants more power and influence, but strategic issues arise at the division level, as well as executive-level committees,” Neill said.

The study, Beyond the C-Suite: Corporate Communications’ Power & Influence, is published in the Journal of Communication Management.

Neill conducted 30 in-depth interviews with senior executives in three Fortune 500 companies and a fourth multinational company that has been featured among Inc. 5000’s list of the fastest-growing private companies.

None of them included both marketing and PR executives in the C-suite, she said.
Those interviewed included executives in corporate communications, marketing, sales, human resources, investor relations, finance and operations, as well as division presidents.

“The executives’ interviews indicated that corporate communications and marketing do supply distinct and essential services that justify their membership in executive-level decision teams,” Neill said.

While PR executives in corporate environments generally manage social media, reputation, internal communications and government relations, marketing executives had influence due to their expertise in market research and branding.

Factors affecting the power of PR and marketing are industry type, CEO preferences, organizational hierarchy and domain expertise.

“PR had a bigger role with companies handling crises and reputation, while marketing was more dominant when the company was focused on branding and sales,” Neill said.

She suggested that both groups need to build internal relationships with their colleagues to educate them on the contributions they can provide. For example, in one company, the corporate communications group initially was excluded from the decision team for a wellness initiative. But after an unsuccessful launch, the communication team provided key messaging about why employees’ health matters to their families. Participation rates increased.

“It requires an effort on the part of the manager of public affairs to really build the internal relationships … so that people always think to call them,” said one public affairs executive.

In the interviews, executives discussed these issues: transition from a print to an electronic publication; public relations’ response to two crises; a merger/acquisition; fee increases across business units; appearances on a national television show; an employee wellness program; and a new business partnership.

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How to effectively repurpose content

Repurpose content

New research from loyalty and marketing agency Customer Communications Group (CCG) shows marketers three ways to recycle content marketing and conserve resources while keeping the content funnel full.

“Even with a solid team of content creators, it can be a challenge to develop original pieces for every single content marketing need and channel,” said Sandra Gudat, president and CEO of CCG, according to a news release. “The solution is to repurpose. Marketers can take existing content, make some tweaks and create content for new channels. It’s one of the most efficient ways to fill content channels without overwhelming financial and personnel resources. These three steps will help businesses get their own ‘content recycling’ program underway.”

Step 1: Run an Audit
Take an inventory of your company’s existing content. It often surprising how much is already available to repurpose. Here are some common sources to pull from:

  • Website
  • Product information sheets and other sales collateral
  • Testimonials
  • Training materials and video tutorials
  • Proprietary surveys and studies
  • Press releases
  • Direct mail campaigns
  • Existing newsletter articles

Step 2: Review Your Plans
Keep content inventory in mind as you develop your content calendar. What topics on your calendar are already addressed by existing materials? Start mapping out the connections.

For example, if you’re planning a newsletter article about identity protection, can you base it on security information from your website? If you want to do a series of social media posts on fall fashions, can you pull from product information sheets or a recent commercial?

For each existing piece of content—and for any new, original material you develop going forward—try to identify three to five different ways you can re-use it. This will create even more efficiency in your content development efforts.

Step 3: Revise and Reuse
Now you’re ready to start tweaking the existing content you’ve identified so that it’s appropriate for the calendar topics and channels you’re aiming at.

For instance, if you’re re-purposing a training video into a customer-facing blog, you’ll need to adjust the voice and terminology so that it’s consumer-friendly. If you’re turning website content into an infographic, you’ll need to hone the message down to its most engaging points and add meaningful graphics.

Content Made Easier
Obviously, repurposing content still takes forethought and time. But particularly as marketers get in the flow and start identifying re-use opportunities upfront, they find that filling their content marketing demands isn’t nearly the challenge it used to be.

Find out more about recycling content and many other content marketing tips and strategies that build loyalty and boost the bottom line by reading CCG’s Guide to Content Marketing.

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