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Curiosity killed the cat, but is it helping comms?

Join in with our Great Clickbait debate as 44 intern Lauren Sidhu explores whether internal communicators can learn anything from the latest online craze…

‘These Children Just Want Money, And You Won’t Believe What They Did To Get Some…’

We’ve all seen headlines like these on Facebook or at the bottom of news sites – and we all know they’re likely to be nonsense – but you click on them anyway. Just out of curiosity.

And then, wait – you’ve been suckered again by clickbait.

Here’s another one I’ve seen recently: ‘This 3 Year Old Picked Her Own Outfit For Her School Photos, And It’s Epic…’ It’s terrible grammar too – but what is it that makes her outfit so epic??

So, what is clickbait?

Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith defined clickbait as something that leads to an article that doesn’t deliver on its headline promise[1] (so don’t worry – those Children Who Just Wanted Money are absolutely fine and in school somewhere). Clickbait editors aim to write eye-catching headlines to arouse curiosity and manipulate users into clicking on the link. Users are often aware of this manipulation, but can’t resist clicking because not knowing is cognitively uncomfortable[2].

The good, the bad and the ugly of clickbait…


The good:

With users increasingly becoming saturated with online content, the use of catchy headlines makes clickbait stand out from the crowd. The ability to be noticed in the digital world is a huge advantage.

Tip 1: Headlines are gold

Internal comms writers everywhere could benefit from using brilliantly crafted, eye-catching headlines (although not too exaggerated) to inspire their audience to read more. It’s also important to remember that people are interested in people, and real life stories are generally the most interesting. Every individual has a story to tell – find the story and tell it.

The good (again):

Clickbait gets results because it appeals to people’s emotions. The stronger the emotional response from the audience, the more likely they are to share the content. Combine a powerful headline with an emotive appeal and you’ve got yourself a winning package[3].

Tip 2: Make your audience happy

Make sure you create opportunities to share positive content that reminds employees of the things that make them happy – doing well at work, team achievements, charity stories, and so on.

The bad:

Users will often click on a clickbait link, but not read the content. In fact, according to research agency Chartbeat, on average few people read more than half an article[4]. So, while clickbait-style pieces may seem to be attracting high engagement, this engagement may only be a reflection of page view numbers – with readers not actually processing the content.

Tip 3: Get personal

Internal communicators should focus on the quality of the content, not just page views, and make sure the tone of voice is right for the audience. Think about the interests of your audience and keep them engaged – it’ll build loyalty and trust with your readers.

The ugly:

As more and more websites and journalists are reverting to using clickbait-style headlines, more and more people are wising up to this mass-marketing tactic and the appeal is being lost[5].

Tip 4: Be unique. Be innovative

Communicators need to continually adapt to the changing needs of the industry and find new ways of engaging audiences. Focusing on adjusting to your audience will guarantee your content is relevant and well targeted.

So, what do I really think of clickbait? There’s a time and a place – but internal communicators need to approach with caution. It’s been fun exploring the debate around clickbait and it’s helped me to think in more detail about engaging with internal audiences.






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