Lights, Camera . . . 3 Tips for Creating a Call to Action
June 19, 2014
You’ve been told time and again to give your articles a “call to action.” What in the world does that mean?
An article that includes a call to action not only gives the reader information, it prompts the reader to do something. This doesn’t just happen in a sentence at the end of the piece (“So now that you know about advertising—advertise!”). It is an inherent feature of the piece. Here are three tips to make your next article more actionable:
Create an Actionable Angle
The call to action starts with the angle of a piece. The most actionable articles give readers small, easy-to-digest, sharable packets of information that will answer their questions or change their life in some small (or big) way. Your readers have likely already done a lot of thinking on the subject they are searching for. What they want now is advice on what to do.
Here are three examples of article titles, ranging from least actionable to most actionable:
- “Laughing Is Good for Your Health”
This article might be informative, but it doesn’t have an actionable angle. In fact, the reader isn’t really sure from the title what direction the article will take.
- “4 Reasons to Laugh During the Day”
This article is a little more actionable. According to the title, the reader will learn why he should laugh, so it follows that he will probably want to laugh more as a result. This article will still need to include some tips on how to laugh more in order to be truly actionable.
- “5 Ways to Laugh More Every Day”
This article is very actionable. Its whole purpose is to give the reader ideas about how to laugh more. It will still need to give some information about the importance of laughter (the reader needs to know why he should laugh), but the focus is on the how.
Now, not every article needs to have a call to action. Articles have to be engaging, and calls to action often increase an article’s engagement factor. But some articles are simply more informational than actionable. An informational article like “3 Things You Didn’t Know About Laughter” is perfectly acceptable. It still has a purpose: to give readers new information about laughter. But articles like this need to be so interesting, so clear, and so succinct that the reader will immediately want to tell his best friend what he learned. So, really, informational articles are still actionable in their own way; they prompt the reader to share something.
Remember—small, digestible, sharable packets of information.
Spotlight Your Audience
Keep your audience in the limelight the whole time you are writing. In other words, don’t forget who your readers are. If your article is “5 Creative Ways to Advertise Your Food Truck,” your audience is food truck owners. Being business owners, they already know that advertising their truck is important. So your article can get right to the actionable material: how to advertise a food truck.
In general, using second person (“you” and “your”) makes an article feel more actionable. It engages your readers. An article that doesn’t speak directly to a specific audience just feels like vague, unhelpful information. It’s like watching a scene in a movie that pans over a crowd of people without focusing on anyone in particular. Fairly boring.
Consider the difference between these two sentences:
- “Lots of food trucks have a catchy name because research shows that this is effective.”
- “According to research, one of the best ways to advertise your food truck is with a catchy name.”
The first is like a scene of random food trucks with catchy names and food truck owners selling lots of food. Impersonal, unhelpful, and only mildly interesting to the viewer/reader. The second is like a scene of the reader himself at his cleverly-named truck, raking in the money as his sales go through the roof. The viewer/reader immediately sees what he needs to do to get the results he wants, so he finds this much more interesting and useful.
Call Backs: The Conclusion
To wrap up your poignant, intriguingly-actionable article, you do not necessarily have to exclaim, “So go out and start laughing today!” or “Now go paint your food truck!” In fact, these kinds of phrases run the risk of sounding kitschy and salesman-like. But your conclusion should encourage your readers to act on what they’ve learned.
Here’s one way the laughter article could be wrapped up: “Create your own list of things that make you laugh, and look for ways to laugh each day. It’s one of the best ways to keep yourself happy and healthy.” These sentences do two things:
1. They give the reader a specific thing to do: make a list.
2. They remind the reader why they are doing this: to be happy and healthy.
If you take away nothing else about calls to action, remember this: tell your readers how, not just what. Readers are looking for manageable pieces of information that they can stick in their pocket for future use. Focus your angle accordingly, speak to your audience, and encourage them to act. You’ll not only captivate your readers, you’ll have them glued to their computer screens eagerly awaiting your next actionable article.