Developing a printed publication
If you are thinking of producing a printed publication to communicate your message, the guidelines below cover the six main points you should consider before embarking upon the actual production.
- Who is your audience and how do they access information?
- What other publications and communications does the University send?
- What key points do you want to communicate?
- What writing style should you adopt?
- Call to action - what should your readers do next?
Who is your audience and how do they access information?
Is a printed publication the best way to communicate your message to your audience? Whether your market is students, businesses, funders, employers you should find out how and when they access information. A business, for example, may not want to file a booklet; a web page may be a simpler and user-friendly way of disseminating information.
You should think of the context in which your audience will need and will use your information.
If you can, plan some market research to find out how your audience looks for and uses this type of information. This can involve asking what type of information they need from you, in what format and at what time they would prefer it.
You may also find it useful to do some competitor analysis by seeing what is available from similar departments in other universities. If it is course information, then see how yours compares to theirs, and what you can infer about other universities from their literature.
How you position yourself in your market will be evident. If competitor literature is a few photocopied sheets with clip art, then your well-designed, professionally produced course brochure will present a strong market position. If this situation is reversed then you could well be presenting a distressed image of your department.
If your print material is to help recruit students then your first point of contact should be your faculty representative in the Recruitment Support team.
They'll help you decide whether your idea is the best way to recruit students and make sure that whatever you do fits in with your faculty and department recruitment strategy.
What other publications and communications does the University send?
There can be several points of contact between the University and its audiences over any period of time. For example, over the student recruitment cycle, a prospective student has contact with us at many different times through several media.
Before deciding what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, find out what other contact points there will be and what has been said.
Ensure that what you produce fits with the look and tone of what is sent, and that you are not duplicating information.
What key points do you want to communicate?
Key points will usually be facts or features of the University, your departments, research or course portfolio. To help your audience understand why these facts are important you will need to spell out what benefits they offer.
For example, a feature of your department might be that it has an 'Excellent' TQA rating. This means that students will be well taught an advantage over choosing a university with a lower TQA score which should give your graduates a head start in the job market: it could offer the benefit of working for a better employer, their employer of choice or perhaps higher potential earnings.
What does a high RAE score mean to prospective students? We tend to explain this by saying that they will be taught by academics at the cutting edge of their subjects, but it needs more to make it relevant to this audience.
We should add that what they will learn about their subjects will be up to the minute, and that this will make them more valuable as graduates, or that they will stand a better chance of doing a PhD of their choice.
If you make a list of your course or department's strengths, then these will be the features to emphasise and, more importantly, explain.
Don't assume that your audience can easily translate features of the University into short- or long-term benefits to them.
What writing style should you adopt?
You should write clearly and avoid jargon and address your audience directly. Aim to keep your sentences short and punchy. Avoid using the passive voice, for example:
Students are advised to contact the admissions secretary in advance of submitting an application
Should be rewritten as:
Before you apply you should contact our admissions secretary
Contact our admissions secretary before you apply
Editorial Style Guide
The University has an Editorial Style Guide, which you can view online.
The style guide is part of an initial stage in developing a consistent identity for the University of Sheffield. It offers an overview of the type of style issues you need to look out for when writing including grammar and standard usage.
Call to action - what should your readers do next?
Your publication should direct readers clearly to what you want them to do next. This might be to phone to speak to someone, visit the department, visit a website, register for a conference or apply for a course.
Your publication should gently demand an action from its reader and supply all the information needed to take that action as easily as possible.
How your publication looks is central to your market positioning. It should look professionally designed, and should obviously be a University of Sheffield publication.
Print and Design Solutions in CiCS offers cost-effective print and design.
Get in touch with them for help putting together your print material.
We also have a roster of approved design agencies which you may want to consider when it comes to designing your print material.
They each understand the University brand and know how to apply our visual identity.
For any design work on publications for external audiences you should talk to us first.