Tips for effective brochures

May 12, 2008

vintage pamphlet photo by Ward JenkinsDespite all the Web 2.0/social media hype, the printed corporate pamphlet/brochure remains a communications workhorse in the public relations world. They’re great to hand out at conferences or in sales meetings and they’re easily portable. But don’t just throw together a laundry list of of your products and services and slap it all into a three-fold format. Creating an effective brochure without thought, planning and careful attention, will just create a useless pile of expensive paper.

Following a few guidelines will set you on your way to creating something worthwhile.

Know your audience
This is always your first step with any writing assignment. If you are unclear about the people you are speaking to in your brochure, you won’t know what tone or style of writing to use and worse, who won’t know what message you want to convey.

Actually define your audience. Figure out its age range and motivation for being interested in your organization, product or service.

Figure out your message
The purpose of a brochure is not to merely convey information. The purpose of a brochure is to motivate the reader towards some type of behaviour. You want them to take some kind of action, whether that’s buying your product, making a lifestyle change or donating money to your cause.

Think of your message in these terms to create the copy that will motivate your audience towards the desired behaviour. To get at this, start by asking the WIFM question (WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?) from the perspective of your audience. For example, I might donate money to cancer research because I know someone who has died from the disease. I might be motivated to buy a hybrid car or a scooter because I’m fed up with the high price of gas.

Write to pursued
OK, you know who your audience members are and you know what motivates them. Now you need to use this information to write your brochure.

A proven formula for effective persuasive writing follows a behavioural framework.

  1. Raise a public concern, need or interest
  2. Present a credible solution or way to address the above
  3. Outline the benefits of taking action and the perils of doing nothing at all
  4. Deliver a call to action (what do you want the reader to do?)

There are many creative ways to follow the formula. You can use examples, story telling or attention-grabing/provocative statements.

Other tips

Use the active voice
Don’t bore your audience to death by writing in passive voice. Passive voice makes the subject of the sentence the recipient of the action rather than the doer. It’s harder to read and pay attention to.

Example: “The carrot was eaten by the rabbit” (passive). “The rabbit ate the carrot” (active)

Passive voice writing can sneak up on you so you need to be vigilant. Mircrosoft Word’s readability stats in the grammar and spell check feature is helpful here as it will tell you what percentage of your sentences are passive. The lower the better.

Keep it short

Edit, edit and edit. Go over the copy for your brochure several times (with time in between readings) to see if you can use fewer words to get your point across. People are not prone to read long paragraphs and columns in a brochure.

Plenty of white space
This is related to the above. Don’t cram tons of text into a small brochure. You want some room for design elements and white space. White space makes a brochure easier to read. Your readers will not be overwhelmed by the number of words they have to wade through to get your message. This makes it more likely that they WILL read your brochure.

Test it out
Once you have your brochure copy the way you think you want it, give it to several people who don’t work at your organization. Can they understand it? Would they be compelled to take some kind of action as a result of reading it? Fix what isn’t working.

I’d love to hear what you think of these brochure writing tips. Am I missing anything? Do you have any tips of your own for making sure you have an effective brochure? Please share your thoughts by sending a comment.

5 Responses to “Tips for effective brochures”

  1. nice post. this is a helpful resource.

  2. […] Tips for  effective brochures – I get a lot of brochure writing work despite a shift in focus to the online world. My expanded […]

  3. Regi John Says:

    the tips are very helpful for me to make my new pamphlet as part of mu studies.


  4. messagecom Says:

    Thanks for your comment David.

  5. David Says:

    Hi Deborah,

    I found the tips very helpful and is very good information.

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