Connecting Content to Action

From targeted messages in our mailboxes to banner ads on our screens, we’re bombarded with marketing messages across channels. Cutting through all of that to move our readers to action is a challenge. Not only that, but as communicators, you’re being compelled to show results for your marketing investments. At Onward, while we can track how many clicks a link gets, we focus on creating engaging marketing materials that turn the act of reading into real world action.

In contrast to much of our media now, a publication or other branded content creates a long-form message meant to capture readers and include them in an interesting conversation. Readers aren’t simply being shown a logo and a slogan — they’re being offered a look into the world of that brand.

Compelling content brings a brand voice to life, but how does it actually bring results to life? That’s where specific calls to action (CTAs) come in as well. With links, QR codes and phone numbers integrated into marketing materials, CTAs make it easier than ever to inspire your reader to act on what they’re reading and provide a specific course of action. How do you encourage that action to happen? Well, it takes more than a little CTA box – it takes the content as a whole and a creative understanding of how a reader thinks.

Keeping the reader in mind

Don’t get caught up on your own marketing goals and forget the fundamental goal of creating a publication that is worth picking up or content that is worth spending time with. What’s key is then offering the breadcrumbs that lead to action. When our editorial and design teams at Onward set out to create content that includes CTAs, it’s a balancing act between words, photos and actionable information. The most important thing is creating compelling content that connects your brand to the messaging that you want to get across, and then providing that actionable information that your audience will actually find useful. When you clearly tie that information back to what it is you do with clear next steps, it allows the reader to participate and build a relationship with your brand.

Interaction is action — even if it takes time

Not every reader is going to read an article about hip replacement surgery and immediately call a number to sign up for one. They may, however, visit a link that takes them to a video about easy stretches and exercises to incorporate into their daily routine. Or maybe they’ll scan a QR code to receive a free health assessment. And if that phone number for an appointment is in fact there on a page, maybe they’ll save it for later or pass on to a friend. There are endless possibilities for reader engagement. The action may not be immediate or direct, but the impact lasts.

Anatomy of a successful CTA

  • Catchy or clear headline — With only so much of a reader’s time, you need to get the point across immediately and with style, all while staying true to your brand voice. The reader needs to know what they’re looking at and why they should care, which is where the personality of your brand can really shine.
  • Visual differentiation — Actionable information needs to stand out visually from the rest of your content but needs to keep a subtle balance with your design standards. With intentional placement of a CTA after or beside your main content with a look that stands, you give the reader time to take it all in, comprehend and then immediately be led to what it is they can do.
  • Value — For the consumer, what is the benefit of following the lead? Rather than focusing exclusively on the need you’re trying to fulfill, get creative and think about what could be most useful to the reader while still connecting them with your message or brand.
  • Easy to follow links — Use short URLs, QR codes, or vanity URLs for existing pages. Several services provide a way to create short URLs, like and, making it easier than ever to customize and simplify your message.
  • Consider repetition — If you have a 20-page magazine with 20 different CTAs, you may be splitting your audience. Consider repetition of one landing page or URL. That way when they are serendipitously reminded of your article, they may be more likely to visit that URL. A URL branded after the publication name can also help reinforce the name of the magazine.


We’re here to help you connect with your customers in creative new ways. To get started with your project, call us at 631-757-8300 or email [email protected].