Calling the people to action (CTAs and why they rock!)

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It’s a bit of a buzz-phrase right now, and we love it! Call-to-action. (Or CTA for short.) It’s a phrase we use all the time here at Gospel Powered. It relates to websites, promotional videos and marketing materials, church announcements, emails, social media posts, the list goes on!

Simply put, a call-to-action is an instruction to your audience, directing them to make a response to what has been presented. It’s usually something simple. Think “Call now”, “Get in touch”, “Register now” or “Find out more”.

But it’s funny how often we overlook the CTA in our churches. Many churches are striving to be better communicators to their people, and rightly so. But to present any piece of information to your church and not provide a CTA is a missed opportunity. Any information shared, whether verbally on stage on a Sunday, via email, over social media, in a printed handout, on a poster or in a video, should have at least one CTA that is both easy and obvious for the reader. Sometimes your CTA will be obvious. If you’re promoting an upcoming event, your CTA will be “Register now”. If you’re asking the church for volunteers, your CTA will be “Sign up”.

But sometimes there may not be a clear CTA. Perhaps you have one of your church leaders announcing some new information regarding the church leadership or finances. Perhaps you’re welcoming new people to your church. Perhaps you’re recapping a past event and sharing highlights. To do these things without a CTA isn’t harmful or bad – but it’s a missed opportunity to consolidate and further deepen the things that were just spoken. We, as humans, forget so much of what is spoken, so any opportunity to direct us to a secondary medium to reinforce what we just heard is so valuable!

If a church leader stands in front of the church to make an announcement about the current state of church finances, end with a CTA inviting everyone to take a brochure home which further explains what was said. If you’re welcoming visitors to your church on a Sunday morning, end your welcome with a CTA inviting them to sign up to your mailing list. Use every opportunity to direct your hearers to the “next thing”.

A good question to ask when deciding on your CTA is: What do you want them to do, now that you have presented them with this information? Think about the pathway you want this information to take. The words are spoken from someone’s mouth (or written on paper or online), they’re absorbed by the hearer, and then what? Think about what you want them to do next, then make it easy for them to do so.

Make it easy

This is such a useful tip! Making your CTAs easy means more people will follow through with them. Do as much work for the hearer as you can, leaving as little onus on them as possible. Take a look at this example. Imagine your church is publishing a brochure asking for more volunteers. You’ve designed your brochure, listed areas that need more help, written a powerfully convincing blurb about why serving at your church is an exciting opportunity (see this post for ideas) and are ready to insert your CTA. What will it be? Here are some options:

Not-so-great idea #1:

“If you want to start serving, speak to someone at our Information Desk after the service”

This CTA is not-so-great for a few reasons. Firstly, the onus is fully on the reader. Yes, of course, we want our people to take initiative, be assertive and take responsibility, but we have to appreciate the fact that some people are shy, others are busy, and others still are a little bit forgetful. In a recruitment drive to see more people joining the serving team we need to be prepared to lower the bar a little, make it easy for people to get on board, then train and grow them along the way. Another fault in this CTA is its vagueness. It simply says “speak to someone”. But equally unhelpful would be to say “speak to Sally at the Information Desk….”. There is every chance your reader has no idea who Sally is, especially in a larger church. Try to be very explicit when writing a CTA, and remove any uncertainty for the reader in regards to who they speak to, or where they go.

Not-so-great idea #2:

“If you want to start serving, send us an email at [email protected]

Another not-so-great CTA, once again because too much of the onus is on the recipient. Firstly, they have to remember to send an email once they get home. Secondly, they have to guess what kind of information they need to send through in their email. Do they need to communicate where they want to serve? Their availability? Their experience? You’re unlikely to receive the information you want, unless you ask for it explicitly. This CTA probably won’t return the kind of response you’re hoping for.

Better CTA idea #3:

“If you want to start serving, fill out the back of this form and drop it in the box on your way out”

This kind of CTA will deliver much higher returns! On the back of your brochure, create a tick-box survey asking all the info you need (name, email, serving area, availability, comments, etc) and make it clear to the reader what they need to do with it. Make sure your collection box is very visible and clearly labeled. You’ve done most of the work for them! All they need to do is fill in the blanks and drop off the form. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s instant so the reader won’t forget about it later. Clarity and brevity is the key for successful CTAs.

Even better CTA idea #4:

“If you want to start serving, fill out the back of this form and drop it in the box on your way out, or fill it online – yourchurch.com/serve

Truth be told, I never carry a pen to church anymore. Hey, I don’t even carry a Bible! Everything I do in church is digital, stored on my phone. So when I’m asked to fill in a form in church, I’m either hoping they supply pens, or frantically asking my neighbour if I can borrow theirs. If you can, make an online option available whenever you use paper forms to collect information. The Gen Ys will thank you for it!

Make it obvious

Once you’ve worked out your awesome CTA, you need to make it so glaringly obvious that no one can miss it. Whether it’s on your website, on a brochure, on a slide or in an email, make your CTA stand out. Use a different colour and/or font size. Put the CTA in a box or outline. Do whatever it takes to draw the reader’s eye to your CTA.

Be organised

If your CTA is going to direct the reader to a particular place, area, person, page, leaflet or booklet, make sure you follow through! If your CTA is for people to sign up to your mailing list at the front desk, make sure there’s a sign-up sheet waiting at the front desk! If your CTA is for people to visit your website for information on how to give, make sure there is easily accessible information on how to give! If your CTA is for people to pick up a brochure on their way out, make sure the brochures are there, ready to go. Like we said before, imagine the “pathway” your information will take. First it’s delivered from the original medium, it’s heard by the receiver, they then carry out the CTA. Map out those steps in your mind and make sure everything is set in place so that the correct steps can be taken.
Challenge yourself to include a CTA on every piece of information you release over the next few weeks. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is, and how much more effective your communication can become!

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