TEN TIPS ON PUBLICITY DESIGN – for student unions

some starting points to help you create some effective publicity print

Whether you’re running a weekly club night, promoting a gig, selling a drinks promotion or marketing a radio station, at some point you’re probably going to want to produce some printed publicity material.

Some unions benefit from full time design staff, others can call on students studying a graphic design course. However, it is not all that uncommon for a new publicity or ents officer to find themselves with an empty piece of paper and a major project to promote.

If that’s you, these tips should provide some starting points to help you create some effective publicity print.

TIP 1 :
Your publicity print has two main dimensions

When planning your publicity print you have two main things to think about – ‘creative concept’ and ‘mechanics’. That is to say, what images and words you will use to sell your event (that’s the creative concept) and the kinds of publicity (flyer, poster, badges etc) you will print (that’s the mechanic).

TIP 2 :
Come up with your ‘creative concept’ first

The ‘creative concept’ is what your whole publicity campaign will be based around. Once you have come up with it, it can be manipulated into all sorts of publicity material – whether that be a flyer, postcard, sticker, magazine advert or whatever. Your creative concept needs to do two things – catch the eye and sell the show.

TIP 3 :
Make sure your ‘creative concept’ is eye-catching

At People are so used to having advertising thrust at them – on TV, in magazines, on buses, on notice boards, everywhere – they have developed the skill of ignoring adverts – some people call this ‘poster blindness’. This is particularly true in most colleges where noticeboards are packed full of posters and notices.

If you are promoting an event which features a recognisable band, DJ, comedian or actor then a simple photo of that person can be very effective. If you are promoting a club a montage of pictures of artists you promote can also be effective.

Some people use familiar images, or a parody of another advertising campaign, as a way of attracting attention. These can work, though don’t forget that if you use someone else’s imagery in this kind of publicity technically you need to get permission from whoever owns the images.

Other people sometimes produce a series of cryptic posters which are obviously linked, but which only make sense when you have seen them all. These can be effective and get people talking – though they may have less immediate impact.

A useful device when thinking about poster design is to glance at crowded notice boards and see what you focus on first. What you are looking at is eye-catching. Is your design going to compete with it?

TIP 4 :
Identify the selling points of your event

As well as being eye-catching, your design needs to sell your event. The image itself might do this (if it includes a well known band for example), but more often the selling comes in the use of words.

Think about what it is about your event that will actually make people want to come? What are the unique selling points of your event? What does it have that no competing event offers?

Do think carefully about what aspects of your event really are the selling points. That is what should dominate your poster. Other stuff can be left in the small print, or left off completely. A common mistake is to put too much information on a poster putting people off from ever reading it in the first place.

TIP 5 :
Spend time on wording

When it comes to expressing your selling points, spend time over the actual wording you use.

Snappy, exciting – but not cliche – phrases can really sell an event. A little linguistic imagination can turn all aspects of your production into big selling points, even negative ones! A ridiculously small venue can offer “an exclusively intimate performance’, while an event with a one night run can be “your one and only chance to catch this’.

Remember ‘less is more’ in advertising. Be very strict on word count. Get all the important information in, but in as few words as possible. People have very short attention spans and often won’t read past the first line or so.

People like to have assurance that an event will be good before they spend their time or money on it. Quotes from respected media or people about your event can help with this, as can honest statements about an events past successes – eg ‘from the people who brought you’ or ‘now in its fifth sell out year’.

TIP 6:
Avoid common design errors

People will also take some assurance about your event if your poster look’s ‘professional’. That’s not to say you need to go all corporate looking, but there are certain rule the vast majority of designers use, and if you break those rules your design ends up looking a bit unprofessional (some cutting edge designers break those rules of purpose and get away with it, but they’re very clever!).

Those rules include: – Only use one or may be two fonts throughout all your publicity print. – Only using unusual fonts for headlines (and using more conventional fonts for nitty gritty information). – Not putting text too close to the edge of the paper, or to close to the edges of boxes. – Being careful with use of logos – not having too many large logos all over your design.

TIP 7:
Think about what publicity mechanics you want to use

Don’t forget the basics, but be imaginative too

Once you have decided on your creative concept you then need to decide what actual ‘mechanics’ you are going to use to publicise your event. There are numerous ideas to choose from, you are only limited by time and budget. (Though do think about distribution – how are you going to distribute your print? There’s not point printing up a million badges and then having no where, or no one, to distribute them.

But assuming money, time and distribution aren’t a problem, then there’s dozens of mechanics open to you. Here just a handful: posters, flyers, stickers, pens, beer mats, glasses, carrier bags, matches, lighters, t-shirts, do not disturb signs etc etc.

Most people will develop their ‘creative concept’ with a particular mechanic in mind (for most shows the starting point is the flyer or poster) and then develop it accordingly for other mechanics. This is probably the best way to go, although do bear in mind the possibility of using other mechanics when putting together your original demands.

TIP 8:
Allow yourself enough time

Predictable thing to say, but try and make sure you have enough time to prepare your publicity print. Firstly, you’ll be surprised how long designing your publicity takes. Secondly, bear in mind anything that is likely to delay the production of your publicity, like getting ‘sign-off’ from people who have to approve your publicity before it can go to print. And thirdly, make sure you have allowed plenty of time for printing and distribution. Which brings us to…

TIP 9:
Choose your suppliers well

Make sure you pick your suppliers well when planning your publicity print. Your main supplier will be your printer. When you get a quote make sure your quote includes all possible costs (checking files, making plates, print, delivery). And make sure you are clear on how artwork is to be delivered and what the turn round times are.

http://facemediagroup.co.uk are definitely your first point of call for flyer printing. They offer a really user-friendly service providing high quality print on 300gsm card.

If you are planning on outsourcing your design, then make sure you are comfortable with your chosen designer. Remember, how happy you are with what your designer produces depends completely on how well your brief him or her. If you are not sure what you want, find a designer who is willing to work with you in developing your design, and make sure you allow time and budget for having your designer tweak their artwork for you a few times.

TIP 10:
You can’t proof too many times

When you are sending your publicity to print, make sure several people proof read it first, even it if its just a couple of lines of text. Make sure your triple check every date, price, phone number etc etc. You cannot underestimate how easy it is to make costly mistakes when you’re sending something to print.


Jim is a prolific networker, small business mentor and a supporter of anything 'community'. He is an ambassador for Young Enterprise on the South Coast and loves to spend his time encouraging entrepreneurial spirit in everyone he meets.

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