Are Clickbait Subject Lines Acceptable in PR?

Headlines are everything. Horrible headlines will not get your content opened. A good one attracts and motivates readers to open your email and continue on with your call-to-action. The same is true for your press releases and public relations content. You need a captivating headline or subject line that gets your content read. An easy way of doing that? Clickbait…but is it acceptable to use?

What is Clickbait?

Clickbait is essentially a false headline.

It’s a headline or subject line that entices people to click on it but then doesn’t deliver the information promised. The false advertisement may work from time to time in content marketing, but not in your PR. Consistently creating clickbait headlines will annoy people, essentially ruining the chances of your PR being picked up, or even noticed.

The main purpose is to attract and encourage people to click on the link regardless of the truth. Accountability is lost when using clickbait headlines, hence why using it in PR is frowned upon.

Why Avoid Clickbait?

It’s Unprofessional

There are many other ways to write exceptional headlines and subject lines without lying or misleading your audience.

Learn those copywriting tactics.

For example: Inserting a number in your headline or subject line attracts attention. Make a promise, ask a question. Just make sure that the headline matches the content in your press release, article, post or email.

You’ll Harm Your Relationship

It doesn’t matter if you are emailing people on your newsletter list or contacting the media, sending a clickbait subject line will cause you to lose trust with the recipient. And trust is key to building a relationship with the media and your customers.

People buy from businesses they trust. Journalists talk about businesses they trust. So why try and ruin the relationship? You can entice them to open your email without sounding too arrogant by adding a clickbait subject line. Appeal to them through a more personable matter by not lying just to get that open.

It’s Lazy

Again, there are many other ways to write effective subject lines. Do the work. Test and track your audience response and change your approach if needed.

When pitching a story idea to the media, consider being 100% transparent. Clickbait is a very vague, but attractive way to get someone to open your message, or begin reading it. But, once they begin reading, they realize 9 times out of 10 they have been fooled. Creating a catchy headline that has nothing to do with the body of your message is a lot easier than creating a captivating headline that is relevant.

Try it!

This article’s headline could have been called, “EXCLUSIVE PR OFFER TO GET YOUR COMPANY ADVERTISED IN TIMES SQUARE”, but that’d be too good to be true. Not to mention, too easy.

It’s Impersonal

Finally, one of the best ways to get people to open your email and respond positively to your subject line is to make it personal.

If you’re emailing a list of people who are receiving your newsletter, this may not apply. But, if you are emailing the media, you can easily personalize the email by mentioning their name somewhere in the subject line. When people use a clickbait subject line, they often do not bother to personalize the message since they are not taking the time to connect one on one.

If you’re emailing media representatives, you can make it personal by spending some time researching what they write about. You may include how you’re connected or if you’ve had any interactions prior to your email. Personalization can help you get your story covered.

Clickbait is never the answer to your PR goals and efforts. Writing a well-crafted headline or subject line can take some work but it’s worth the effort. Building trust and a professional relationship with the media can be invaluable in getting the PR that you want.

Rhamer Bernardez is a contributing editor and marketing associate for Newswire. She comes from a journalistic and PR background, covering everything from best practices in the field to social media strategy. Have an idea for a blog post? Don't hesitate to email Rhamer at: [email protected]

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