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Writing Museum “Call to Action” Copy

We’re not talking about great call to action copy… We’re not talking about engaging call to action copy. We are talking about BLINDING call to action copy! The kind of catchy line that absolutely reels you in and “converts” you into a click-happy user. 

Call to action, otherwise known as “CTA” copy can turn a good campaign into a great campaign. It’s a combination of words that compels users to perform an action. This action can be to continue navigating through a website, engaging with a social media post or clicking on an ad. Good call to action copy is reenforced by design and campaign strategy that convinces the end-user to do something. Donating, visiting, subscribing, clicking, reading; there’s more call to action copy within marketing than people are aware of. Learning how to write convincing taglines and enticing blurbs really is essential to complete an accomplished marketing skill-set. 

There’s one reality that we can all face, good call to action writing skills are totally necessary for all fundraising messaging. Therefore, the arts and cultural sector HAS to be good at it.

Examples of effective and popular CTAs are:

Sign up
Subscribe
Join (us)
Listen (in)
Come along
Don’t miss
Get started
Try
Find out
Discover
Continue
Find out (more)
Follow (us)
Take me there
What’s next

The phrases above subtly invite visitors to take that extra step and signpost them to their next destination. However, it’s important to remember that they are simply a jumping-off point. Now it’s your turn to show off your skills, come up with your own call to action buzzwords inspired by the list above. 

See! It’s not THAT hard once you get going. Now, hopefully by the point you’ll have managed to come up with a couple thoughts about how those phrases are applicable to your organisation. 

Now, let’s break things down a bit more… What do most of the phrases above have in common? Besides being call to action phrases (c’mon, we gave that one to you!), they all being with a strong command verb. What’s a strong command verb? It’s actually what is sounds like – commanding or ordering someone to do something. This might seem a little aggressive at first, but there is no such thing as effective marketing that is also wishy washy. Consumers need to know exactly WHAT you want them to do, and HOW to do it. 

Being direct

  • If you are referencing e-commerce and buying products online then use phrases like: “shop”, “buy” and “purchase.” 
  • For referring to newsletters and email lists “subscribe”, “join” and “sign up” are popular.
  • Exhibitions and online resources/guides can have similar CTA phrases: “view”, “preview”, “experience”, “learn more” and “immerse yourself.”
  • Enticing people to come to events or programmes works with phrases like “attend” “come along”, “visit” and “tour.”

It’s opposite day

You can even use the antithesis of words… If you want people to buy tickets soon rather than wait, use a negative and then the antonym of the word you’d rather they do: “don’t wait.” This works to create a sense of urgency and then FOMO, or fear or missing out as a consequential action. “Don’t buy this”. “Don’t visit us” etc…

Add positivity
Make users smile when they see your call to action: “Be happy”, “say hello” and “share the love”. Happy phrases like this imply that if they user follows the prompt and clicks through, that it will be a pleasant experience for them, that their lives will be enhanced by whatever your copy is offering. This kind of copy adds an immediacy and intimacy that works in your favour to appear as genuine and positive to your audience. 

Hidden objectives
If you want to drive someone to buy something, why not have the text show them proof of why they need it? For example, if you wanted someone to buy tickets to an exhibition on Henry the VIII, you could use the following call to action copy:

Make it clear that there’s something more to be discovered if they were to only click through. 

Reverse-Psychology

Why is it that the human reaction is to want something when we’re told we don’t want it or can’t have it? Just like God to Adam in the Garden of Eden, tell your users what they shouldn’t do and they will be all the more tempted to do it… “Don’t click”, “you don’t need this”, “probs not worth it” and “don’t visit”. 

The two-choice method

Trick users into thinking they have a choice, and then hinting at the fact that they may be making the wrong one if they opt out. Let’s be clear, we definitely don’t condone “tricking” people which could be perceived as false advertising, we mean that in the sense that this kind of call to action needs to have a very strong spin.

Offer an incentive

“Subscribe now and receive”, “Join today and save 10%”, “Begin the savings today” – you want to click through already don’t you? We are living in a culture of instant gratification and nothing is more tantalising than the prospect of being able to immediately see the benefits of performing an action, whether that be making a donation, buying tickets or attending an event. 

To create one of these call to action phrases, think of an incentive for every ask that you make of the end-user. “Become a member to book unlimited tickets”, “save 10% off with your email address” and  “score a free exhibition ticket” are all examples of incentive-based call to action phrases. 

Another great word to use here is “claim”. That phrase implies that what the user is clicking-through to receive is genuinely theirs and owed to them. It is theirs to claim and always has been. This will make clicking through THAT much easier because of how natural it is. 

Everything is better when it’s free

A four letter word that makes heads turn and everything ultimately taste better? FREE. This little word has an incredible power when being used in call to action phrases. Offering a free trial of your services, resources, programmes is a great way to overcome the hurdle of getting audiences to hand over their information and their interest. Invite people to come visit your museum for free, or offer to put the price amount of the tickets from their first museum visit towards the price of a membership. Offering a sampler, a free taste is a great way to get people to click through and to become invested in your institution. Offering a free way to become engaged with the organisation comes off as genuine interest which is an authentic way to attract new followers. 

ONLY is JUST a word

Or is it…. Both “only” and “just” can be extremely powerful when used in call to action copy. “Your free visit is just around the corner”, “Just one more step”, “Only available today” and “15% savings are only a click away” are all great examples of how those two operative words can be used to minimise effort and maximise rewards for those who choose to engage and click-through. 

Make it a question

Make the users have a hard think about WHY they can’t just click-through. This type of call to action is very daring and cheeky. By using one of these phrases you are taunting the visitor and asking them to come up with a good reason why they shouldn’t give in. 

“Why wouldn’t you join us?” “why not start today?”and “when are you going to come along?” are all great examples of CTA phrases that begin with a question.  

From…

Powerful call to action copy is one thing on it’s own, but when there is a powerful voice behind that text, it adds some serious fuel to the fire. Using a particular voice can make users feel needed, heard, and valuable by your organisation. 

Consider addressing certain calls to action as being from various staff members. We’ll break it down a bit further below. 

  • For donations – organisation directors and development officers 
  • For event invites – performers, artists, programming officers, museum directors
  • For membership – membership and development officers

Going the extra mile

Users will be much more likely to click-through if they feel that their voice is being heard and that their needs are likely to be met. By directing them to use more of your services and to further engage with you, you are making them a promise that they will be satisfied by your organisation and brand. If you are trying to up ticket sales, consider capitalising off of our current culture of instant gratification and phrasing a call to action like the one below:

“In a hurry, give us a call to purchase tickets” or “sign up now to receive 24/7 customer support.” 

This kind of language lets people know that your organisation will be with them beyond the initial click and that you value their trust in your brand. 

In it to win it

Building upon that brand loyalty that we just mentioned in the example above, use participatory phrases to let your audience know that you are mutually entering this partnership. “Let’s start this journey together”, “Join the family” and “Become one of us” all imply that the person who clicks-through will be a valued member of something that is bigger than themselves. They know that they will have a support system with your organisation which will prompt them to have some SERIOUS FOMO if they don’t take advantage of that offer. 

Choices, choices, choices

Who said that you could only have ONE call to action button? Earlier we talked about giving users a yes or no answer with language that clearly favours one over the other, but now, we are talking about having multiple call to action options that are equally weighted.  

Pose one question to your audience and then offer them buttons to click on to personalise their pathway on the website. Let’s throw an example out there shall we? Picture you’ve hit the homepage of a nonprofit natural habitat marshlands in Cornwall. Immediately they ask you the following…

This is excellent signposting and a way to encourage visitors to dig a bit deeper and more stuck-in with what your website has to offer. Giving visitors simple choices like this makes it all the easier for them to smoothly navigate the site and increase dwell-time. Take these kind of ideas and integrate them into the way that you design your website as well. 

Call to action copy is great for guiding users about what to do to stay on task and further engage with your organisation, and they are an integral part of making a museum website easily navigable. 

Let’s end this article with a bit of a recap. 

We first spoke about what a CTA (call to action) is, and why writing compelling CTA copy is essential for digital marketing. Call to action copy is that last little push that gets you to navigate a website for an extra five minutes, click that social media post, or make that annual donation. It’s an essential ingredient for any successful marketing campaign which is why we showered you with an abundance of call to action top tips. 

  1. Be direct 
  2. Use opposite words
  3. Be positive
  4. Use hidden objectives
  5. Reverse psychology
  6. The two-choice method
  7. Offering an incentive
  8. Free trial 
  9. “Only” & “just”
  10. Make it a question
  11. Personalised messaging
  12. Extra support
  13. Embarking together

Lucky number 13 – right? These top tips will see you through to creating compelling call to action copy of your own.

Now go forth and write!

About the author – Devon Turner

Devon Turner is an Arts & Culture Writer. She has worked extensively in arts marketing for both the visual arts and performing arts in the US and UK. Now living in London, Devon works in the arts and culture sector and enjoys traveling to visit museums.

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