Before You Create

Did you know that creating materials is the last part of the advertising process?

Before you start writing an email announcement for an event or designing a brochure featuring a new program, answer the below questions. Effective materials target (1) the right audience with (2) the right message. The questions below will help you determine who your audience is and what message you want to send.

Questions to Ask

First and foremost

  • Do you really need to create something new? Does this already exist somewhere else? Can you recycle or reuse content (with permission)?
  • Even if it’s not exactly what you need, can you look to similar initiatives for inspiration or advice?

Goals

  • What specific, measurable goal do you want this piece to achieve?
  • Did you answer “generate awareness”? Think more specifically: Event attendance? Lead generation? Online or phone inquiries? Program signups? Best practices in communications planning go beyond generating awareness.
  • Are you ready for demand? If you launch a successful communications campaign, do you have a plan and adequate resources for responding to inquiries that come in?
  • Now answer this question again: Do you really need to create materials to achieve this goal? If so, continue answering the following questions to refine your goals.

The audience

  • Who is your audience?
    • Did you answer “the UF community” or “the general public”? Think more specifically. Are you targeting students? All faculty or maybe just the academic health center? Or maybe just a few colleges or departments?
  • Where is your audience?
    • “Where” can mean physical space or virtual. What email newsletters do they subscribe to? What publications do they read? Do they host open events where you could reserve an information table? Do they hold regular department meetings, and would they give you time on the agenda, if your initiative is of sufficient interest?
  • What materials work best with this audience? Do researchers read paper flyers? Or do they prefer email? Do they use social media, and if so, which platforms? Do they watch videos?

Paper or digital?

  • If you answered “I need a flyer”, is paper the medium your audience uses? Or are they reading a flyer on email or a website? Or even Twitter or Facebook? When you say you need “a flyer”, do you really mean an email and/or web announcement? Before you start designing a message and materials, it is very important to know if the distribution channel will be paper or digital. This determines everything from budget to timeline to the type of software used to make the materials.
  • What type of publication will best serve your goals? Is it a social media post? A blurb in the CTSI Quick Links newsletter? A brochure?
  • If your materials need professional printing, make sure you have room for this in your timeline.
  • Does this project require a budget? How will you pay to print materials or sponsor ads? Going back to your goals, can you achieve these through free options?

Messaging

  • See detailed information on writing content here.
  • What are your key message points?
  • Keep it short and to the point!
  • This is where communications efforts often stray from stated goals. Go back a few steps and remind yourself who your audience is. What’s in it for them? Why should they care? What are the benefits to your customer/user?
  • What action do you want your audience to take? Register for an event? Fill out an application? Ask them to do this in your message. This is a “call to action”.
  • Do you have a landing page? This is important if you’re asking others to share your message with their audiences, ie, including in email newsletters or forwarding to listservs. A web page or online news post will also help you track interest.