The Power of the List: why listicles are invaluable tools in a PR strategy

By Emily Shead, Account Executive at Aspectus

Listicles: what are they, why do we love them and why are we so drawn to read them over any other form of feature article? In short, nothing beats a list. However, it’s important to understand the science and psychology as to why listicles are such a crucial component of a media strategy.

Listicles unpacked

The human love of a list and the science behind it

It’s not just a happy coincidence that everyone you know loves a listicle, as human beings we are psychologically programmed to love lists. The clear layout on the page, the welcomed breaks from walls of text and the clear ordered structure are just some of many attractions the brain sees when it spots a list. The brain loves predictability, which a listicle provides through its structure and order. In turn, this enables us to develop what psychologists coin “schemata”, a mental map of similar experiences that teach us what to expect. These effectively become shortcuts in the brain that allow us to absorb information more quickly and easily.

The clarity of the content contained in a list

In order to keep to the structure and tone of a listicle, it’s important not to embed too much information within each item on the list. And so, the result is an article full of clearly set out points which immediately answer the question posed at the beginning. If the article is titled ’The 7 best dog breeds to get if you love long walks’, you know that all you are going to be reading around is dogs that are good on long walks. Listicles, unlike other features, tell you exactly what you want to know straight away, rather than an article which tells you exactly what you want to know halfway down the page.

Why should you factor listicles into your PR strategy?

Hyper-engaged audiences

Getting coverage in a listicle guarantees that you are putting your brand in front of an engaged audience. Not only are they engaged but, their brain is optimised to remember all the information, because as mentioned above, a listicle gives a person all the key factors from the get-go.

Concise way to share key messages

Due to the more direct nature of a listicle, you must cram every piece of fundamental information into no more than a paragraph. It turns you into a ruthless editor as you truly get to grips with your most important key messages, and how you can convey them concisely. When a reader encounters your business in a listicle, if done well, they will walk away knowing exactly who you are and what you do.

High readership and recognition

The final key strength of a listicle is they are often some of the most highly coveted articles to feature in. Many listicles such as Time 100, Forbes 30 under 30 and the Telegraph’s Tech 100  are some of the most recognised news features in the world and everyone wants to read them because they’re enjoyable, provide clear information (or opinions) and enable you to take in new facts at a fast pace. For a company or individual, being featured in one of these top spots is an accolade to be celebrated.

The Wired 100 Hottest Startups: a case study into the success of listicles

If you still feel unconvinced that listicles shouldn’t factor into your PR approach, the WIRED 100 Hottest European Startups, will give you all the confirmation as to why you should have a rethink.

Being a start-up sometimes means it’s difficult for you to land coverage consistently, as people want to talk about your results rather than your vision. Ironically, once you have results people become more interested in your vision again. For CodeSandbox, Wonder, Dott, Popcore, Sana Labs, Varjo, Curb and Wolt WIRED’s 100 Hottest European Startups listicle did just that.

These start-ups were able to reap all the benefits of being featured in a high-profile listicle. They were able to concisely put together their key messages, in a clearly set out and memorable piece which elevated their profiles to a pan-European audience. All these companies just set themselves up as clear champions of the start-up world in just a paragraph, which epitomises the value of a listicle.

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