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by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

By know, most are getting used to the idea of including CTAs (call-to-actions) in their online messages. A call-to-action is basically where you tell people what to do next.

Let’s just contemplate this for a while … what to do next?

Having struggled with creating great content, publish it in a timely manner while being social with your community. If you forget about the next part, you’re of course excused. It’s pretty easy to forget about it.

However, I would argue that this next is the most important aspect of them all.

Here’s why:

Let’s Say You’re About To Send Out A Press Release

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’ve created a press release about your new product line.

You’ve researched and asked many questions to understand how this new line of products will position your brand in the marketplace. You’ve been smart and created targeted messaging which will resonate with your audience emotionally and logically.

The first draft has been sent out internally for approvals and edits from management, the sales department, the product developers — and, of course, legal. After quite a few revisions and meetings, your press release is good to go. Your PR agency has asked you to push back your release date a couple of days. They develop a pitch on how to get a few selected journalists to cover your news before it’s all over the place.

In the meantime, you prepare your personal send list, a promo for it in your next newsletter and you schedule your release to go live on your online pressroom. And of course, you spend some time preparing your selected wire service so that they are ready to push the button when it’s time. You create an accompanying blog post and a deck of pre-written updates for your social media channels. As your message goes live, there’s a lot of work that has gone into the process. And maybe you feel very good about yourself.

But should you, really?

Why The User Perspective Is Another Story

There’s a zero chance that a given prospective customer will see (and least of all appreciate) all the work that you’ve put into your press release. The prospective customer will probably only see one or two outcomes of your efforts. And they don’t really care about your efforts anyway. That customer might see a single tweet about your news. If this customer (and this is already a big if already) clicks your tweet and end up on your online press release somewhere, will they then read the actual press release?

Well, some will. A select few.

Imagine a person who have seen your single tweet and they end up reading your press release from beginning to finish. Now, let’s pause here and reflect.

Visualise this person, having taken several steps just to consume your message, crafted with such an effort.

Now, what?

Most press releases have the same generic call-to-action (CTA). It goes a little something like this:

“For more information, please contact …”

What?

Here’s a person, a very rare person I might add, that are so into your messaging that they’ve undertaken several crucial steps to consume your messaging. And you (or your useless PR agency) leave them with some generic and vague next steps?! It’s NOW your efforts are beginning to bear fruit — and you turn your back on users with proven intent?!

Don’t Waste Your Users Intent — Leverage It!

These rare but extremely valuable prospective customers are obviously in click-click mode. They’re obviously hungry for more.

Now is NOT the time to try and get them to pick up the phone or ask them to send your spokesperson an email with questions they have to come up with themselves. Now you need to tell these people, who are obviously into your messaging, where they can go next based on what their intent tells you about them.

  • A great call-to-action isn’t “read this”. Because they’re already there and reading, right?
  • A great call-to-action is not “for more information contact this person” or “leave a comment”.

That last one is a scary one. “Leave a comment” about what?

If you’ve gotten a prospective customer this far, don’t be so lazy. Guide them. Tell them exactly what types of input you’re looking for — and why.

“But My Press Release Is Targeting Journalists …”

Some argue that journalists don’t need call-to-actions. Because they know what to do. If you’re of this persuasion, let me stop you right there. You’re not including clear call-to-actions because your users are stupid or have no clue about what to do.

You’re including great call-to-actions because you want to be of great service to them. If you’re targeting journalists, list a couple of interesting questions your spokesperson can provide answers to — if they call them. I mean, if you’re serious about getting journalists to pick up the phone, then you’re already implying that there’s more information to be gotten beyond the press release, right?

If not, then don’t ask journalists to contact your spokesperson. Point to them to somewhere which will help to create your story, just don’t waste their user intent.

How To Create A Great Call-To-Action

A good call-to-action:

  • tells users what to do next.
  • is based on the intent (previous clicks) of the users.
  • outlines very clearly what you ask of them — and why.
  • doesn’t have to compete with lots of other CTAs.
  • makes it clear to the user why they came there in the first place.

In the comments, let me know what you think about adding CTAs!

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Behind the keyboard:

Jerry Silver is the author of Doctor Spin, a PR blog that's been around for 15+ years. Via his agency Spin Factory, Jerry is advising brands on how to adapt to a 'digital first' world. In 2016, Cision Scandinavia named him "PR Influencer of the Year". Jerry lives in Stockholm, Sweden with his wife Lisah, news anchor and television host, and their three-year-old son, Jack.


Doctor Spin’s comment policy:
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Reader reactions:

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@collentine

No shares and no comments so far. The ending comment seems to have been an incentive on a CTA for the reader that obviously hasn’t worked until I commented now.

Let’s turn discussion and see what you asked for in your CTA:
“please link to both good- and bad examples when it comes to call-to-actions and let’s discuss”
-A highly cognitive task for a potential reader to find their own examples and bring them to the table for evaluation by others.

Believe a more effective option for the ending CTA on this post would have been, just as you stated in post, to imply that you had more to share on the topic (which you surely have).
OR
given the reader a practical exercise in order to employ your advice direcly e.g. given a short fictional press release and asked the reader to apply your point-list to create an ending CTA for the PR.

Do you believe one of these ideas would have been a better CTA or do you have some other idea?

Reply
Doctor Spin

Thanks for adding some much-needed fuel to the topic. I was hesitant to shoot this one out, to be honest. My traffic basically evaporates during the summer and I knew I wouldn’t have the time to properly promote this post.

I did, however, get six email signups for my newsletter, so I’m not entirely unhappy with the results. And then I got your stellar comment, of course! :)

It took me nine days to reply, which of course is not very good. So I’m definitely piling up bad practice on this one, ha! I’m blaming the incredible weather here in Sweden.

But to get to your point: Yes, I agree. Ever since I switched from writing in Swedish to English, I’ve had a hard time getting comments going. A good post does often hit over 100+ shares which I’m happy with, but adding a “please add your comment” CTA has always been challenging for me and adding such a CTA to this post, in particular, wasn’t a very bright idea in retrospect.

Your idea with the fictional press release is brilliant, I think! I should’ve gone for a more creative CTA like that, especially given the topic of this post! I can’t really think of a better one!

Thanks for calling me out and keeping me on my toes! :)

@collentine

Not adding a CTA on a post discussing it would have been even worse. Putting theory to practice is essential imo.

Have you analyzed why the interaction decreases on your English posts compared to the Swedish ones? Are you asking similar questions?

Doctor Spin

Yeah, I’ve both done testing and qualitative surveying for quite some time, actually.

The results are rather sad:

A majority of Swedish readers who used to comment frequently are in fact seeing me as a competitor these days.

The sure-fire way to get comments/reactions from these people is to do something that they perceive to be wrong because this gives them an opportunity to showcase their expertise.

Why did this happen? Well, I was actively promoting digital marketing at a time when traditional consultants needed to understand the digital shift. This isn’t a debate anymore, so I’ve moved on to sharing how-tos and actionable tips.

Now, do I want to be writing to aid these “experts”? No, not really. I want to reach marketing managers looking to deepen their knowledge and who understands that they can support me by sharing and asking questions.

So the insight here is that I need to find and explore a new base of readers — and that’s what I’ve been working towards for two-three years now.

Karoline Goldberg

Not wanting to comment – both a Swedish and a Human fear of public speaking..
I am thinking of all the times I did wrong because I simply did what I was once taught to do and what I have always done. (Don’t do what you’ve always done…)
I recall last time I wrote a release about an innovative packaging solution. A hotel used it succesfully to enhance their room service satisfaction. The intent was that other hotels (whom sales dpt were pitching) would see these news and gain trust for our solution.
A great call to action might have been to give them a link to a blog post where I further explained how the packaging solution may add to a hotel?
Thank you for such a great blog, I am catching up on the summer’s blog posts as I have also enjoyed the sun too much.. :)

Reply
Doctor Spin

Yeah, either a link to get “deeper” into it for those who are so inclined, but maybe rather to a downloadable lead magnet prospects can’t resist. That way the communicator can harvest email address and keep in touch with them — or even hand over some contact details to the sales department.

Awesome to have you here, Karoline! I really appreciate it, you have a true communicator’s talent in offering positive energy when most needed.

Ellen

Thanks, am really enjoying this course. Extremely generous to share this amount and kind of content. Am blogging and am a part of a team of colleagues managing our digital channels. A communication officer (not sure I’m using the right term) was just hired and I want to be able to discuss and contribute to the developement of us online, hence “coursing”. Answering your question on CTA: I think it is also a matter of being clear with your intention, seems the (CT)actions taken makes it easier to evaluate and what doesn’t. Am also here to gain confidence and the “instant” feedback I guess CTA may trigger can be a real booster. Just my two cents!

Reply
Doctor Spin

Thanks for sharing, appreciate that. Good luck with the eCourse.