Do we need leaflets?

The world’s moving on. Times change. And in 2011, in my town of Cheltenham at least, and no doubt most places, we found that more and more people had heard about Heritage Open Days through the internet.

© Roger Woodley - Leaflets collage

They got all the details they needed that way and planned their visits from that source alone.  We know this because we asked our visitors as they arrived.

So the question crops up:  do we still need leaflets? Do we really need to go to all the trouble and expense of producing paper details of all the planned events, with the risk that details change and can’t easily be amended and so on? In 2011 we certainly asked ourselves these questions, and probably will again next year.

The rise of the internet

What are the ways for getting the publicity you need?  In this blog people are writing about local radio, press, taking a stall in the market or whatever. We used all these methods in Cheltenham in 2011 and they were variously mentioned by visitors as the sources of their information. But the majority mentioned the internet or our leaflets as their main source of intelligence.

The move towards information online is growing, and certainly unstoppable. But for the next few years at least, I’m certain we’ll continue to need leaflets. They’re portable, attractive to pick up and look at, can reach all audiences, and can be targeted in a way the internet can’t, yet. So I’m sure leaflets have a short-term future – and maybe long-term too.

Making the most of print material

Let me tell you a bit more about our Cheltenham experience. In 2010 and for the few years before that, we had a modest two-fold A4 leaflet, which could be photocopied (a real advantage), but which was too small to include a map or much detail. In 2011 we determined on something bigger – A3 folded once and then twice, making it the same size as a 1/3 A4. It's large enough to include a map and a timetable of opening arrangements as well as an alphabetical list of sites taking part. It cost more, but it said more, and it looked better – by a long way. It took someone with some expertise to produce it – not me! – and without him we couldn’t have done it. But I’m really glad we did.

Having got a good leaflet – it needs to be ready by mid-August – you have to decide where to distribute it. We gave 100 or so copies to each of the opening venues to distribute as they thought best. We gave copies to the Cheltenham Tourist Office and took sets also to the Tourist Office of nearby towns. Of course in exchange, we had to take copies of theirs to display in Cheltenham. But I suppose that’s only fair.

Taking it to the people

But the best mode of distribution was our decision to get permission to open a stall in the main local shopping centre on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Heritage Open Days and to offer copies of the leaflet to passers-by.  Most of them of course said they’d never heard of Heritage Open Days, and many very likely threw their leaflet away. But for quite a few, feedback showed it to be the sole reason for their taking part in the event for the first time. New converts! We’ll certainly be taking a stall again in future years.

Yes, leaflets really help. They need to be attractively and accurately set out, accessibly written and laid out, and have all the necessary information inside. It’s a chore. But we really do need them.