Reach readers with callouts
Think of your callout as a movie trailer for your story.
Movie trailers give the best stuff away for free to entice moviegoers to buy a ticket.
Callouts — aka pull quotes — give the best stuff away for free to entice readers to read your story.
So go ahead: Find the most provocative point in the story — the more specific, the better — and give it away in your callout.
Here are five types of callouts to consider:
1. A dramatic moment
Choose the most dramatic moment in the story — the time when everything started going awry. If the callout is powerful enough, readers will read the story to find out what happened.
That’s the technique we used in these callouts for Saint Luke’s Health:
“It just hit me — bam! In a couple of seconds, I was down.”
— Kina Wright, a Baton Rouge man who suffered a stroke while on a business trip
“Where my right elbow had been, I felt this hole.”
— Linda Thomssen, symphony violinist who smashed her upper arm
“The doctors told me had we found it a month later, they couldn’t have done much for me but hope for the best.”
— David Jeffries, a Sibley, Mo., resident who had a malignant tumor on his lower esophagus
“My lower back felt as though there were hot coals burning inside.”
— Glenn Crawford, Kansas City-area manager who suffered from spinal stenosis
On the morning of his daughter’s wedding, Addington woke up — in his hospital bed. Would Kristen be walking down the aisle without him?
“When Dr. Bybee showed me the picture of my heart, it looked like a squash.”
— Delilah Teague, who was diagnosed with broken heart syndrome
“It felt like someone was sticking a knife in me and turning it.”
— Mark Fisher, who suffered from hernias for 10 years
You might also consider calling out the most heart-warming moment in your story. That’s what we did in these Saint Luke’s Health callouts:
“Before, I could only pick up my fork. Now I can bring the fork to my mouth.”
— Dale Clowser, a 62-year-old who lost fine motor skills to a stroke
“They woke me up and said, ‘We have your heart.’”
— Phillip Duncan, a Saint Luke’s heart transplant recipient
2. A provocative detail
Present a provocative detail that makes readers ask, “Am I ready for that?” That’s the approach we used for these callouts in Northern Funds’ Northern Update:
Wildfires in California, tornadoes in the Midwest, and flooding nationwide prove that no corner of the country is immune to catastrophe. (from a piece on developing a “financial disaster kit”)
By one estimate, each of the so-called BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — will rank among the world’s seven largest economies within a generation. (from a piece on investing in emerging markets)
Some 2.2 million families could eventually lose their homes, according to the Joint Economic Committee October 2007 report. (from a piece on the housing bubble)
This callout, from a conference brochure we wrote for the Public Relations Society of America, uses the same approach:
Nine out of 10 journalists use search engines to do their jobs. Do you know how to help Google find your release?
3. A compelling benefit
Show readers tangibly what benefits they’ll experience with your product or service.
“The children don’t know they’re coming to a hospital; they think they’re coming to play.”
— Jeanette Worthington, director of The Children’s SPOT at Saint Luke’s
“It might take time for the market to recognize a company’s long-term potential, and we like to get paid while we’re waiting.”
— Northern Income Equity Fund manager Ted Southworth
4. An exciting opportunity
Name names and number numbers. Call out facts and stats that detail the tantalizing opportunity you’re covering. These come from Northern Update and Saint Luke’s Health:
Don’t overreact. Equities often perform well during a recession. The S&P 500 Index has, on average, gained 10% during the previous nine postwar recessions.
In 2006, 100 percent of the patients waiting for new hearts at Saint Luke’s got them within 6 months. The national average in 2005 was 15%.
“The earlier you tackle financial issues, the more prepared you’ll be for their consequences. Think of money talks as flu shots for your financial health.”
— John Hoover, wealth strategist for Northern Trust
5. A fascinating specific
Entertainment is the No. 2 reward of reading. Call out details that demonstrate that your piece is interesting read. The New York Times Book Review does that in these callouts, which promote not only the review, but the book as well:
Instead of chanting “air ball,” basketball fans in the Chinese interior employ the Sichuan word for “impotent.”
— from a review of The Only Game in Town
Life magazine once declared Rideau “the most rehabilitated man in America.’”
— from a review of In the Place of Justice
Physics progresses through a series of funerals — of those who couldn’t live with the consequences of their work.
— from a review of Quantum
Call to action
Take time to choose and craft compelling callouts.
Plus, a short, carefully crafted callout might also make the perfect tweet.