Press coverage is always good for increasing brand recognition. But what else can a company gain – or lose – when it’s thrust into the media spotlight?

At Fractl, we’ve witnessed how just one piece of viral content can yield significant brand awareness and SEO value. To see if the same benefits applied to recent viral news stories, we teamed up with Moz to examine the impact media coverage had on seven brands that dominated headlines within the last year.


Check out the flipbook below for background on each brand’s PR story and how it impacted press mentions, organic traffic, and backlinks. Then, keep reading for our findings and key takeaways from these PR wins and fails.

Brands which were relatively unknown before being in the news saw greater benefits than the well-known brands.

Stories about smaller brands received less press coverage than large brands (Airbnb, REI, Miss Universe). However, out of the brands in our study, Roman Originals, Gravity Payments, and Turing Pharmaceuticals saw the greatest increases in organic traffic, backlinks, and press mentions.

On the flip side, the large companies’ traffic and backlinks saw less dramatic increases after the media frenzy, even though these brands were mentioned in 148% more headlines than the unknown brands, and those stories received 190% more social shares.

What does this tell us? Lesser-known brands can see big results from a relatively small amount of press. Unknown companies can achieve significant benefits from one major media hit, while large brands may require sustained media coverage in order to see a significant impact.

Negative stories attracted the most media attention.

Our study found that brands with negative stories (Turing Pharmaceuticals, Miss Universe, and Peeple) appeared in 172% more headlines than the positive stories. Additionally, negative stories received 176% more social shares.

This makes sense, since conflict is at the center of most big news stories. But to avoid backlash (as we saw with Turing and Peeple), you need your brand positioned as the hero of the story, not the villain. Look for opportunities to craft your PR stories around a conflict by using a narrative such as:

  • David vs. Goliath. Are you a small brand trying to compete with the establishment? The media loves a good underdog story.
  • Brand vs. Customer Problem. In this narrative, the problem is the source of conflict. Does your brand offer a new way to solve an old issue?
  • Brand vs. Itself. Did your brand recently make huge internal improvements, like developing safer or more environmentally friendly product? Share the story of how your brand turned a negative into a positive.

One big media hit can lead to a long-term uptick in press coverage.

Although many news stories have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature, an interesting thing about most of the stories we looked at is that the initial feature gave way to increased media coverage over a long period. The two best examples of this are Gravity Payments and Turing Pharmaceuticals.

Gravity Payments first appeared in a major press story in April 2014. Six months later, the press was revisiting the story to report how the CEO’s decision to raise employee salaries to $70,000 had impacted the business. However, the company’s time in the limelight hasn’t been all positive; in December 2015, a Bloomberg article suggested the wage increase was motivated by a lawsuit.

Turing Pharmaceuticals has remained in the news since its story broke in September 2015. The story took a few dramatic twists when Turing’s CEO Martin Shkreli was arrested on fraud charges and resigned as CEO, leading to ongoing coverage of the story.

If the initial feature attracts enough attention, the media will keep reporting on it as the story continues to evolve. PR pros and marketers may be able to get additional mileage out of their biggest media hits by pitching new updates and details related to the story, even months after the initial coverage.

Use content to fuel your PR efforts.

The amount of media coverage these brands received is rare. The good news is that even on a smaller scale, top-tier press coverage can yield short- and long-term benefits, but getting major media placements based on stories about your brand alone can be challenging and unpredictable. This is especially true for smaller or newer brands, which can’t rely on brand recognition to make their stories newsworthy. 

Creating newsworthy content is a more predictable way to consistently secure press placements. This approach also gives you more control over the story. Through content marketing, our clients reap bottom-line benefits from the media coverage their content receives. Similarly, the majority of press about Fractl comes from our content marketing efforts, between publishers citing our research or our team’s columns on top marketing sites.

Check out this deck of case studies to see real examples from our clients using content to secure press coverage.

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Our goal was to analyze the impact of major media coverage on press mentions, organic traffic, and backlinks, based on seven companies that appeared in the news between February 2015 and February 2016.

Press mentions were measured by comparing how often the brand appeared in Google News search results the month before and the month after the PR story was in the news. A combination of Moz’s Open Site Explorer, SEMrush, and Ahrefs was used to measure traffic and backlinks. Increases and decreases in traffic and backlinks were determined by calculating the percentage change from the month before the story broke compared to the month after. BuzzSumo was used to measure how often brand names appeared in headlines around the time of the PR event and how many social shares those stories received.

Note: We left out a few metrics for some brands due to incomplete or unavailable data. For example, backlink percentage growth was not measured for Airbnb or Miss Universe since these events happened too recently before this study was published for us to provide an accurate count of new backlinks. Additionally, organic traffic and backlink percentage growth were not measured for Peeple since it launched its site around the same time as its news appearance.