ADVICE: A Leaflet Writer’s Guide

We write, print and deliver literature in order to promote our message, our candidate and the party. Leaflets also demonstrate our activity; show that we keep in touch all year; allow us to ask opinions; and enable us to find issues. 

Leaflets are a time-tested way to reach a large number of voters at a reasonable cost and form the backbone of a Liberal Democrat campaign. It’s not unusual for target wards, parliamentary seats and during by-election campaigns to deliver huge volumes of literature, sometimes in excess of one leaflet per day over the last few weeks.

Whilst it’s impossible to do scientific testing that controls for variables, every bit of evidence and experience we’ve seen has shown that high volume leaflet campaigns yield very good results, while low level leaflet campaigns or campaigns that don’t do leaflets at all tend to fail. This is partly because it shows how serious we are about winning and also because the volume of repetition lets us get our message over to residents.

What you need

A computer and the right software. DTP (Desktop Publishing) software is the type of software used to create leaflets, posters and brochures. Currently the Liberal Democrat party and ALDC support one piece of DTP software for all our designs and training. This software is called PagePlus and is available for around £20. Currently the Liberal Democrat party officially support PagePlus X8 although many users are choosing PagePlus X9. In practice both X8 and X9 are compatible with ALDC and LDHQ templates. Buy PagePlus

PagePlus software is not currently available for Apple products. For those people who have previous experience with other DTP software like Illustrator, In Design, or Publisher we would still recommend moving to the party’s supported software. This will give you the freedom to share ideas and crowd-source support from the Lib Dem family as well as receive help and support from ALDC’s Advice Officers. 

A template. Templates are leaflet designs that have already been set up for you to use. They require less effort than starting with a blank sheet of paper. They are the best way to save time and to create a high quality product. You can find templates for every occasion in the ALDC File Library or on the Liberal Democrat Campaigners’ Google Drive. ALDC members can visit our File Library and see our latest templates.

A printer. Leaflets are commonly printed in two different ways. Full-colour printing outsourced to professional printing companies or printed two-colour on a risograph printer (commonly referred to as a ‘riso’). There are advantages of both techniques. Risograph printers are a significant initial outlay, however printing on them is relatively cheap and the turnaround is exceptionally fast. They are great for small fast runs of leaflets and they provide the classic two-colour orange and black leaflet that many Liberal Democrats will find very familiar (leaflet templates with the words ‘Two Colour’ in the title are designed for use with a Risograph). For many long standing campaigners risos hold a special place in their hearts. These days full-colour printing is nearly as cheap as risograph printing, however the turnaround time between sending in your finished artwork and receiving your leaflets is usually greater. 

In your initial campaigns, leaflets will be one of the biggest elements of your expenditure so it’s vital that you know how to choose your printer and save money on printing costs.

At ALDC we recommend you work with at least three printers and regularly get quotes from each of them for every piece of outsourced literature you do. Quotes can be wildly different from differing printers because of the nature of their equipment or how busy they are. This is true even if you trust them so always make sure you get multiple quotes. 

When comparing quotes for a print job you should consider whether you’re comparing like for like. Here are a few of the most common differences between print quotes:

  1. The turnaround time between sending in your artwork and delivery from the printer can greatly alter the price. Seven working days is long enough to secure the best prices though five will be enough for many printers. You will usually pay a premium for a faster turnaround so plan ahead to hit your campaign deadlines.
  2. Is the paper type the same? Printers use all sorts of different paper at different prices to do different jobs. They use paper weights (measured in grams per square metre (GSM))  to tell you what sort of paper your leaflet will be printed on. Paper weights range from 80gsm to 135gsm for standard leaflets. The heavier the weight the thicker the paper your leaflet will be printed on. Thicker leaflets tend to look and feel nicer but are often much more expensive and can be difficult for your leaflet deliverers to carry. It’s important to think about what kind of finish you want your leaflet to have too. You may want them glossy or to have a matte finish, just make sure you tell your printer so they can help you get it right. Also be aware that due to different manufacturing methods gloss papers will feel thinner than their equivalent weight of uncoated or bond paper. As a minimum we recommend 80gsm for uncoated paper (matte finishes) and 100gsm for coated (gloss etc).
  3. Is delivery included? Delivery can sometimes cost 10% of a standard ward or division run of leaflets.
  4. Is folding included? Usually you want to receive your leaflets fully folded but this can create a discrepancy between quotes so make sure you specify and double check with your printers.
  5. Is it the same run of leaflets? Printers tend to print on large printing presses which means larger runs of leaflets will be cheaper per leaflet than smaller runs. If you asked a printer for one print run of 6,000 A3 leaflets it will likely be more expensive per unit than if you did two runs of 6,000 at the same time. Because of this it can be useful to get your literature plan in line with other local parties to reduce cost.

Your relationship with your printers will be really important all year round so make sure you think about quality reliability as well as price.

At ALDC we work with Election Workshop. A print and design company run by experienced Liberal Democrat campaigners. Whilst we always get multiple quotes we often choose Election Workshop because of quality and price. They can also help with artwork too. Visit their website.

Stories. The stories we choose to put in our leaflets represent us to local residents. They should show us as the hard-working local campaigners we are, but they should also tell people about the Liberal Democrats nationally. You should use a messaging grid (download here) to decide what you’re going to say about yourself and use your stories as proof points for your message. You can also mix in national stories. Both ALDC and LDHQ provide drop in artwork that can be localised and used in your leaflets. 

Pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words. Luckily the elections department at LDHQ has put together a fantastic guide to taking effective campaign photos. Right click here to download to separate window.

The legal necessities. Liberal Democrat campaigners should always comply with the law. Thankfully the most common elements of the law to deal with have been well trodden by campaigners before you. Here we will quickly link to the absolute necessities:

  • Imprint. An Imprint is a statement which advises the reader who to contact if they have a problem. It must be on everything you produce and be written in an agreed format. Find out everything you need to know: imprint advice article.
  • Data Protection Statement. Like the Imprint the Data Protection Statement is a set of legally compliant words that have been agreed with the Information Commission. They must be included wherever we seek to ask someone for their data, for example in a petition or survey. Read our Data Protection Statement advice article. If you do not use the current Data Protection Statement you may not use or record any of the data you are given.
  • Defamation, libel and slander. This is a complicated area and the best advice is to check anything you think may be close to the edge with ALDC or the LDHQ compliance department. Here’s our full advice article on Defamation, libel and slander. 

Fonts and style guide. Take a look at the official Lib Dem style guide. You can download more commonly used fonts at the ALDC File Library too.

 

Top four tips to take your leaflets to the next level:

  1. Use simple language. Quality writers write in a way you can understand. So avoid big words and avoid long sentences. Councillors and campaigners who use local government reports and emails to build stories, will need to be careful to avoid ‘Council Speak’. ‘Council Speak’ means using complex reporting language that wouldn’t be used in real life. The best way to make sure you’re not doing this is to ask someone who’s not interested in politics whether they understand what you’ve written.
  2. Repeat your message. Agree your messages then repeat them on your leaflets until they get through to the electorate. By the time they’re working you’ll be sick of them but keep going! Once you hear them coming back on the doorstep you’ll know they’re starting to work.
  3. Find great proof readers. We all make typos, and those of us who’ve been doing this for a while will have had some classic blunders. You should avoid them at all costs though by making sure you always give proper time to proof reading. We’d advise you choose someone with good grammar and an eye for detail. As mentioned above it also helps to have a proof reader who’s not that involved in politics (maybe a family member or friend).
  4. Be neat! This is how you’re presenting yourself to the world. Take enough time to make your leaflets neat and tidy, use the align tool on PagePlus and work hard to present yourself as you would wish to be seen.

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