Media relations

H is for Hyperlinks

The A to Z of media relations
Supported by Unicepta
H is for Hyperlinks

It’s a subject that divides journalists: to agree to a PR’s request to include a hyperlink. There are those that will and those that most certainly will not, viewing hyperlinks as a free form of advertising.

While SEO specialists rave about the benefits of hyperlinks – they keep visitors for longer on websites, they offer a call to action, they are rewarded by Google – journalists are less convinced.

Certainly, a request to include a link to a report being cited in an article or a link to a website for further information, is uncontroversial. An article does, after all, merely summarise a longer report, which readers may be interested in exploring further. It is helpful.

The issue arises when requests are poorly thought out. Does HSBC, for example, really need a hyperlink in every article that alludes to the bank? It may welcome the inclusion for a good news story, but would it be quite as pleased with a link to a controversial one.

A Scottish journalist once expressed his bafflement after a PR agency requested a hyperlink to William Hill’s website in an article about a branch of the betting shop being robbed.

But Ann Summers probably welcomes all the links to its site, highlighting the incongruity of a tribute to Her Majesty the Queen placed above its ‘shop window’ of underwear and sex toys. It’s traffic that may not normally have visited.

It is generally accepted by journalists that PR professionals are less likely to request hyperlinks than SEO and digital marketing specialists. This is because, while PRs believe that a journalist’s role is to create news, SEO specialists appear to view their output as content. They also are more likely to produce press releases that are solely designed to drive traffic to a website, such as a blog post, which more serious journalists will shy away from.

I once received a press release about the cost of toilet breaks to the British economy. It was written by an SEO company. I didn’t use it because, firstly, I thought it was a mealy-mouthed piece of news: what does it achieve? Secondly, I didn’t agree with its calculations. And thirdly, the entire press release, and I’m using the term loosely, was littered with hyperlinks back to various sites, such as government statistics. It was all an SEO game.

The websites of many national media organisations already include hyperlinks in articles to past articles or relevant coverage. They probably view that as enough.