The rise (and persistence) of the listicle has some of us PR professionals feeling a bit fatigued. Of course we understand the value of serving up easily digestible nuggets of information to your target audiences, whether they be media, followers, or potential clients or partners. But as with many memes, the ubiquity of the form yields a lot of lists we wish had never been created. To renew our sense that there’s still hope for the form, we’ve found five listicles clever enough to be considered PR-worthy. Here they are.
“10 of the Worst Diseases Smoking Causes,” from the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control. Not only because it’s a worthy public service announcement, but because it actually sheds light on some little known facts about smoking, which is what good PR does! Plus, putting useful, health-promoting information into a familiar, popularized form is a clever PR move for an organization whose message doesn’t change too much, making it a challenge to keep communications fresh.
“If Classic Books Were Listicles,“ from Barnes & Noble. It’s especially funny because of the contrast between the forms. “Classic books” couldn’t be more of a foil to the listicle, or maybe it’s just that PR types tend to appreciate literary jokes. Some of our favorites: “The Giving Tree” — 13 Signs Your Friendship is a One-Way Street; and “The Jungle” — 20 Things You Didn’t Want to Know About Where Your Steak Comes From.
Esquire’s “14 Reasons You’re More Likely To Read This Because It’s A List.” An obviously clever move because it both pokes fun at the listicle while explaining why it’s become the “signature form of our time,” as the New Yorker puts it. Not least among them: lists are visually pleasing to our eyes, and the instantaneous nature of our social media-saturated world trains us for instant gratification, which a listicle provides.
The aforementioned New Yorker’s “10 Paragraphs About Lists You Need In Your Life Right Now.” The piece takes the existential approach, quoting Umberto Eco that, “the list is the origin of culture.” Lists make order out of the world, delivering a promise to fulfill one’s expectations.
Granted this is not a “listicle,” but a real list: U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges Rankings. If you’re a recent college grad or the parent of a college-bound child, you’re probably familiar with this exhaustive ranking of schools. Because it’s well known for its rigor and the exhaustive measurements used, earning a place on the list remains a calling card for universities, and the list continues to make headlines year after year.