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4. The Opportune Moment!

Time. A concept so complex, the Greeks had not one, but two, words for it. Chronos meant chronological time, such as morning, noon, and night. Kairos meant the opportune moment. It’s the right time to say something in the right way. I think of it as the ideal time to ask people to change their viewpoint or to take an action. The key is to ask when people are ready.

Don’t Ask Too Much Too Soon or Too Often

Ancient rhetoricians felt the opportune moment was special. It didn’t come along everyday. That’s worth remembering when we’re tempted to press users quickly for personal information or bombard them with emails and tweets. As a simple example from Content Science, we send an email once per quarter to our email list. Our email open rate is 50 percent. When I shared that high rate with a marketing friend, she nearly fell out of her chair.

Ask Clearly

People won’t respond how you’d like if they aren’t sure what you want. For instance, Content Science assessed this original version of a CDC website about travel health. We found some quality content to help travelers stay healthy. But, what CDC recommended people should do was vague (Figure 4.25). CDC even tested this website with real users, most of whom were very interested in the content but confused about what to do next. (For a case study of how we improved this website, see Chapter 5.)

Figure 4.25: A website vaguely asks people to travel healthy.

React to a Crisis Promptly

A hurricane strikes. A CEO resigns. A damaging video goes viral. Sometimes, the opportune moment arises because of a shocking event. When I worked for CDC, I occasionally took a turn responding to everything from bioterrorism to SARS. I can assure you it’s much better to say something trustworthy sooner, not later, so people don’t panic or spread rumors.

Apply the Opportune Moment to Content

On the web, our content can seize kairos in several ways.


Chapter 1 noted how ads annoy people. What if ads were more relevant to a website’s topics and users? For example, National Geographic’s readers typically care about the environment. An IBM ad stays pertinent with the message to “build a smarter planet” (Figure 4.26).

Figure 4.26: A relevant ad on the National Geographic website.

Call to Action

Clear, concise, and earnest—what makes a good call to action. Mayo Clinic Health Manager offers an unmistakable invitation to begin the sign-up process with a button labeled “Get started now” (Figure 4.27).

Figure 4.27: An effective call to action appears on Mayo Clinic Health Manager.


Sometimes, helping people act requires more than a well-labeled button. In that case, contextual instructions come to the rescue. The Mayo Clinic Health Manager shown in Figure 4.27 includes simple instructions. As another example, Grasshopper offers plainly worded instructions to make a referral (Figure 4.28).

Figure 4.28: Grasshopper explains how to refer someone.

Crisis Response

How can you respond aptly? By planning for crisis situations. You can’t prepare for the exact crisis, but you can think of possible crises and have a plan that answers questions like these:

  • Where will we publish a response?
  • Who should write and approve a response?
  • If we need extra people to help us monitor and respond to questions on social networking, how will we get those people?
  • What are examples of a good response?
  • What style of response is appropriate for our users and our brand?

For example, when his popular wine website Cork’d was hacked, Gary Vaynerchuk didn’t hide his head in the sand or scramble. Instead, he reacted with a truthful, even funny, video (Figure 4.29).

Figure 4.29: Gary Vaynerchuk reacts in a lighthearted way to the hacking of his website.

The CDC responds in a different style to a different crisis—a salmonella outbreak in eggs. A no-nonsense daily summary explains the latest status and what people should do about it (Figure 4.30).

Figure 4.30: CDC cuts to the chase of a disease crisis.

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