Follow the sniff, sip and gulp model
In today’s time-pressed society, you only have a split second to convince someone to read what you have to say. After quickly scanning the headline and subhead, a reader may take a quick glance to see who the author is and then make a snap judgement to do one of three things:
- Drop everything and read immediately.
- Save for nighttime/weekend reading.
By including three or four summary bullet points at the top of your content – from blog posts and articles to white papers and podcast transcripts — you’ll greatly increase the odds they’ll take Action #1 or Action #2 above.
Whether you call them Key Takeaways, Hot Takes, Key Learnings, Summary Bullets or simply Takeaways, those hardworking bullet points at the top of your content should provide readers with an instant summary of what they will learn if they invest the time to engage with your words that follow.
Not sure what to include in your bullets? Think of bullets as mini headlines that outline the most valuable things a reader will take with them after reading your piece. Is it a better way of doing something in the career or their life? Debunking a popular belief? Learning something new that most people don’t know. Deconstructing something complex and making it simple? Whatever your objective, the Key Takeaways should be brief, actionable and accurate.
How long should Key Takeaways be? No more than two lines long. Preferable no more than 144 characters which is about 20-30 words max (more on that in a minute). Use action verbs whenever possible. This condensed format forces you to remove the fluff and get right to the point. Here are some good examples from our clients’ work (click on hyperlinks to see Key Takeaways in live content):
The thing that’s great about restricting yourself to 144 characters is that you can create a tweet or post out of each bullet with a link to the full piece. Several of our clients have been “Tweetables” regularly such as this example and this one.
I have so much great material, it’s hard to pick three bullets. Hopefully you created an outline before you started the writing process. The skeleton of your outline can easily be turned into Key Takeaways. If you still having trouble distilling your content piece into a few concise bullet points, that’s a sign that you may be rambling, or perhaps are trying to cover too much in a single post, article, bulletin. It might be time to go back to the editing room or consider breaking your piece into Part 1 and Part 2 before making it live.
Sniff. Sip. Gulp. If you can’t provide the reader with a quick mini tour of your work, there’s a good chance you’ll lose them enroute to the finish line. As Investment Company Institute’s George Breeden, CAE once said in a presentation I attended, follow the “Sniff, Sip and Gulp” model. First give the reader a sniff of your content (Headline). If they’re intrigued, then let them sip a brief sampling sip of what’s inside (Key Takeaways). Only after you’ve passed the reader’s sniff and sip test, should you hit them with the full gulp of content. Forcing them to gulp before they’ve have had a chance to sniff and sip, is overwhelming. When readers feel overwhelmed with information, their gag reflex is to hit the delete key and walk away.
Don’t play click bait game. Another disturbing trend I’ve seen is the use of provocative words or phrases within subject lines, headlines, even Key Takeaways in order to grab the reader’s attention. DON’T use “sex positions” or “salary survey” or “Kardashian” or “Musk” unless your content really is about those topics. If you do, be ready for the backlash.
Do yourself and your readers a favor. Respect their time. Summarize accurately. Highlight the three or four most valuable things readers will gain if they invest their valuable time with your words. If you do, they’ll be happy to post comments, share on their social channels, and keep coming back for more. They may even become clients.
Don’t agree? Tell me why.
#KeyTakeaways, #SummaryBullets, #ContentMarketing, #GeorgeBreeden