Egyptian blogger from Cairo.
Revolutionary Socialist.
Partner & Creative Director at ThePlanet.

How to create an effective political flyer

Yesterday I was at Tahrir square in celebration (and recognition) of Labor Day. While the numbers were not on par with my optimism building up to the day-long event, the mood was uplifted, and the revolution’s happening. As always, I was offered a dozen different flyers by fellow revolutionaries, and I make the effort to go through each one and learn about the different political movements and campaigns taking place on the ground.

Flyer distribution had always been an underground activity that was rather risque. Now, it is the standard method of announcing and sharing ideologies and activities, and is vital for any group from independent unions, to lobbies and political parties. More so than social media, in fact.

Sadly though, the effectiveness of the papers that are tossed around don’t do justice to the level of enthusiasm and passion driving them. For that reason, I wanted to write a blog post with the steps to follow in order to put together an effective flyer that gets your message across, even on a tight budget. The following are what to keep in mind when designing and printing your flyers to be given out on the streets:

  1. Less is more. More is ‘where’s the nearest trash can?’

    You should focus on a couple of points and not get carried away printing out an entire detailed manifesto. People literally give a few seconds’ worth of attention, and then will look elsewhere. Think of a flyer as part of a campaign, not a comprehensive movement. If you’re struggling to fit in everything you wanted to say on a piece of paper, chances are you’re trying to convey way too much.

  2. Fewer paragraphs, more bullet points

    No one wants to go through endless paragraphs. Bullet points are easy to digest, and allow people to choose whether or not they want to read a particular point, or skip to the following one. You’d be overly ambitious if you thought many are willing to go through entire paragraphs in order to reach important points lost in the middle. Ideally, a flyer would have about five main points, with a couple of lines going into a bit more detail with each one.

  3. Use colors, if possible, but no rainbows

    Black and white printing is obviously the cheapest option, but if your budget allows you add another color or two, than that would be more attractive. Don’t go overboard with colors from fantasy motion pictures, that would probably be repelling, not to mention costly.

  4. Consider A5 over A4

    There’s no real need for an A4-sized flyer. The amount of content required to fill it up already deems it ineffective. Besides, folding it up or trying to keep hold of it is a bit of a tough task. A5 (which is half the A4) is small enough to fit in a pocket after just a single fold, yet spacey enough to carry your message comfortably. You can always print on both sides, dedicating one side to the main points, and the other to more detail, as well as where to go for more information.

  5. Include any basic illustration, or a diagram

    Don’t try to print images. They’re not exactly cheap, and their quality rarely does your message any justice. However, a simple cartoon, or caricature could grab your audience’s attention long enough to generate interest in going through your message. Sometimes a basic diagram can go a long way in illustrating a point.

  6. Always have a call for action, what are we supposed to do?

    Never is the objective behind a flyer to read it and toss it. There’s always an action that is required. Focus on that aspect. Make it loud and clear, and at the end of your message (because you want to persuade people first). The shorter it is, the more effective. ‘VOTE NO’ yields results that a call for action two sentences long wouldn’t dream of.

  7. Where do I go for more information?

    Remember a flyer carries a specific message. Those who are interested need to be directed to websites where they can learn more about the subject. Ideally, you would provide a website of the movement/organization, a Facebook page, a twitter handler (in some cases there’s a hash tag to follow without an actual account), and most importantly, a phone number.

An Example

This was a flyer that was handed out in the days leading to the constitutional referendum. I would personally rate it 8/10:

front

Front side

back

Flip side

Advantages:

  1. Ideal size
  2. Some color, but not too much
  3. Strong call for action
  4. Table organizing points
  5. No paragraph text

Disadvantages:

  1. No website, Facebook, nor twitter
  2. The back side could use an illustration, or a bit more color to distinguish

Learn from your mistakes

The success of your flyer is directly related to the feedback you get from recipients on the ground. When a piece of paper sparks conversations with fellow citizens on the streets, then you must be doing something right. There might not be a precise winning formula to putting together an effective flyer, but I think if you stick to the points above, you should be in good shape.

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5 comments

Rowan

May 2, 2011

I think you should translate this to Arabic and pass it along to El gabha and youth initiatives directly. Great stuff! Glad you did it :)

Joan H Craig

May 2, 2011

Very good advice.
You said ‘Less paragraphs’. I assume that you meant to say ‘Fewer paragraphs’
If you want to reduce the size of something – make a thing smaller – use ‘less’
If you want to reduce the number of something use ‘fewer’

Tarek Shalaby

May 2, 2011

Rowan: Definitely. Thanks for inspiring me to write this!

Joan: Thanks. I’ve changed it.

Walid

May 2, 2011

Good work Tarek. I already attended some of those meetings held by Elbaradei supporters and I had the same notices on their flyers. Most new parties just drop you a list of the same principles in different ways, I thought a lot about why don’t they try to make it more precise and in. Much like a diagram shapes. Guess politicians need marketers more or isn’t it their job?!:)

sham3a0

May 2, 2011

very helpful man, keep it up!!
now i have to change my 4 paragraph A4 flyer :D

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