How to Write Strong Kickers Your Readers Will Remember
No offense. But most people won’t read your blog posts to the very end.
And that goes for any of us, no matter how good our content might be.
A Coschedule study found some interesting facts about their readership. Most people read only between 20 and 30 percent of an article, and a mere 10 to 20 percent actually made it to the bottom of the posts.
So, should you just “mail it in” when you’re closing out your next article?
Not at all! The tenacious few who read your entire post are your superfans. They’re the ones most likely to engage with you and share your content. So treat them with respect by finishing strong and making them glad they stuck with you to the end.
Write a kicker—the last line, paragraph, or section of your article—that drives home your point and leaves a lasting impression.
How? Here are three tips.
#1. Study kickers.
As you read well-written content, be on the lookout for kickers that you like.
What caught your eye?
How can you use them as inspiration for your own writing?
When I study kickers, I break them down into “objective” and “structure” and organize them in an Evernote notebook for easy reference.
What does that look like?
Here are three examples to illustrate my thought process:
Engineers are achieving quantum breakthroughs in artificial intelligence that will function as the “brain” for tomorrow’s fully autonomous vehicle. But will they figure out how to give a machine a soul?
Objective: Springboard into a broader and more in-depth conversation about the topic.
Structure: Setup statement + thought-provoking question.
Article: “How to Kickoff a Successful Panel Discussion”
This two-minute intro helps prime the audience to get the most out of your session. And when the audience is happy, so are the panelists and the event planner—which, in turn, raises your profile in the industry.
Objective: Reinforce the benefits the reader can expect if they follow the advice.
Structure: Summary statement + value proposition.
Article: “Storytelling for Fleet Safety”
Too often, leaders take a heavy-handed approach when trying to change behavior. Or, they’ll rely exclusively on data to hammer home their point. But if you really want to influence people and improve safety performance throughout your organization, try telling a good story instead.
Objective: Summarize and drive home the main point.
Structure: [Conventional wisdom = N] +(But) [If you want X, then do Y].
[Side note: In this kicker, conventional wisdom refers to these two sentences: “Too often, leaders take a heavy-handed approach when trying to change behavior, Or, they’ll rely exclusively on data to hammer home their point.” This sets up a powerful contrast that brings out the main point of the article—that is, if you want X (to influence and improve safety performance) then do Y (try telling a good story instead).]
My recommendation is to personalize your study of kickers by using terms and formulas that make the most sense for you.
2. Look for the ending at the beginning.
As journalist Steve Volk puts it, “The best endings echo the beginning on some essential but surprising way. So, often realizing where a story should end immediately triggers a thought about where it should begin, and vice versa.”
Start with an outline of possible endings and choose the one that ties into your main point the best. Look to your lede for inspiration. Even then, sometimes, you may not know how the piece will end until you actually write it. If that’s the case, you can still draw from what you’ve already written to craft a good kicker and tie it all together.
#3. When in doubt, find a quote.
If you’re stuck, look for a quote that can help make your closing point for you.
Here are a few examples:
If you’re not telling your story about how fleet helps the overall business, those who don’t understand fleet will tell a far different story—one in which fleet is exclusively a cost center that’s underperforming and needs to be cut. And you’ll be marginalized, with little influence over the budget discussions that directly impact your ability to do your job.
According to Lindquist, “To get the seat at the table, you have to earn it. And to earn it, you have to do the work. You have to develop your business case. You have to own your fleet numbers. You have to educate yourself on the business.”
So, when you get down to it, what is this market like? What can you compare it to? Is it like what the industry experienced in 2016?
“Perhaps.  might be somewhat comparable. But it’s a touch too early to tell,” says Curry.
While all trends appear to be pointing toward a self-driving future, there are still regulatory hurdles that could cause the automotive industry to tap the brakes on releasing fully autonomous vehicles into the market. “We will certainly see some degree of autonomous capabilities easing their way into commercial fleets over the next few years. However, current legislation around the use of autonomous vehicles requires an individual to take control of the vehicle when necessary, so it is likely to be some time before we witness fully autonomous vehicles in use with no human driver inside the vehicle,” Barker says.
The Bottom Line
If you made it this far, thank you so much! You’re among the tenacious 10 to 20 percent of my readers who really want to learn and grow as business storytellers. You’re the reason why I write on this blog—to serve you, learn from you, and grow with you.
And your loyal audience is the reason why you invest the time, money, and energy into creating exceptional and useful content. So, don’t let up. With each piece of content, start fast and finish strong.
“End With A Bang” by Ann Wylie
“Putting Endings First” by Chip Scanlan
“Want to write well? Open with a punch, close with a kick” by Matthew Stibbe.