This post was first published by Brendan Reilly on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.
A call to action. It’s something no piece of content should ever be without. Not having one is like loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and then watching three strikes sail down the middle of the plate without swinging. What was the point of doing all that work if you weren’t going to capitalize on it?
Whether it is a blog post, a contributed byline, an online video or an infographic, there has to be something that gives your audience a clear path forward, a next step that provides them with the insights they’re looking for. If you don’t give them a call to action, there’s a very good chance that their next step won’t involve you or your brand. They’ll go off and do a Google search, and likely end up finding content from your competitors. Now you’ve lost that share of voice. You walked them from Point A to Point B, but let someone else get them to Point C, and that’s who they’ll remember.
Alternatively, had you provided a call to action, you could have controlled the flow of information and the path that individual took to get there, keeping your brand top-of-mind the whole time. Here are some calls to action that can help keep eyes on your content instead of wandering elsewhere:
1) The “Read More” Section
At the bottom of blog posts on March’s site, you’ll notice that we often include a section that directs the reader to one or more posts that share a similar theme with what you’ve just read. Odds are, if you enjoyed reading the initial post, you’ll be interested in reading our further suggestions.
2) “More By This Author”
Sometimes people respond to a particular author’s writing style or the type of issues that they regularly cover. I know if I find a writer that I like, I look for other content they’ve created. Just like the “Read More” option, it keeps your audience consuming content from your brand, making sure that you maintain that share of voice in your field.
3) Downloadable Content
A blog post can be a great introduction to an eBook or whitepaper that dives deeper into the issue at hand. Your readers want more information? Here’s a golden opportunity to give it to them. It’s also a great opportunity for you to build your email list by email-gating the download. Now, that prospect has an engaging, interactive and informative piece of content directly associated with your brand. (BTW, for more on the evolution of content marketing and PR, download our free eBook on the subject at the bottom of this page!)
4) Embedded Hyperlinks to Syndicated Content
Content on your site is great, but if you manage to secure syndication or placement in a well-known publication, always include hyperlinks. For example, if you’re a B2B tech company that was featured in a great piece on Wired, you should be directing as many people as possible to that URL. Your brand’s presence in reputable third-party publications and forums reinforces your status as an industry thought leader and someone prospects want to work with. (*With embedded links: always set them to open up in a new tab or window. That way, readers don’t completely navigate away from your site and forget to return.).
5) “For More Information …”
Video content is growing in popularity these days. It’s easily consumed on smartphones and tablet computers, easily shared on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, and can often be more engaging and easier to digest than written content (particularly for people with limited time to spare). Include an end title sequence with a URL, phone number or email address for the viewers to help them find additional info and remain engaged with your brand.
6) Invitation to Interact
It’s great when you get traffic to a blog post or video on you website, but you don’t want one-and-done readers. You need qualified traffic where the types of people you want to either recruit or do business with regularly interact with your brand, opening a dialogue that leads somewhere positive. Give your visitors a chance to engage with you. You can do so by inviting them to offer comments and questions on your post. You can invite them to follow you on social media, email you, submit guest blog posts in response to yours, or even contribute video content.
Engagement is a Two-Way Street
Remember, a call to action needs to include a satisfying conclusion for the reader/viewer. You asked them to make the effort. Now it’s your turn to reciprocate. If you invite them to email you or post comments, don’t leave them hanging. Respond. If your video directs them to a URL for more information, make sure that site has what they’re looking for. Any other calls to action you think I should have mentioned? Feel free to admonish me for the oversight in the comments section below (see what I did there?).