Every publication is an extension of the organization's brand, values and reputation. Having a marvelous suite of literature is a lofty goal, and it’s much more common to see fives and sixes than stellar tens. Companies offering the marketplace a well-curated, intelligent and attractive group of publications have no doubt invested a great deal of thought and expertise. Exceptionally well-designed publications give any company a leading edge in the marketplace. Thanks to the internet, consumers do a lot of pre-purchase research on their products and services. Offering a solid stable of informative literature helps convince consumers to buy. Many prospective buyers seek information about installation and maintenance; it’s not all about attractive promotions and sales. Literature needs to be informative, attractive as well as provide the appropriate technical information. Here’s how to get a suite of literature into top notch shape.
Assess Existing Publications
An honest look at the current state of publications will reveal a lot. Number one, are the publications aesthetically pleasing? Number two, are they clear and easy to understand? Number three, are they current and doing the job? If a reader cannot answer these three questions with an emphatic yes, then there is work to do. Most customers prefer to do their homework before reaching out to a live person at a company. They rely upon the existing suite of literature posted on a public website for their research. It is to a company’s detriment if literature is out-of-date and therefore misleading. Imagine, for example, that somebody wants to buy a new appliance. They would likely go online to search for information about brands, prices, features, warranties, maintenance and other aspects of the product. If they happened upon a brochure that was for an out-of-date model, they would likely be both disappointed and unimpressed. The potential sale would be lost as the customer would rapidly seek another website with current product information, dismissing the earlier offering as a non-contender. This is why it's critical to regularly review literature libraries and ensure everything is current.
Revise Existing Stock
Revising existing literature is a rewarding project. It goes far beyond making something look more modern. Proper revisions incorporate up-to-date technical information as well as new ideas from team members to ensure that the customer is getting the most well-rounded product and service information possible. Ultimately, it is the details that count. Begin the revision process by assembling all the existing literature. Go through each one with the team and decide what is stale, incorrect or missing. From this point, assign team members roles for updating and finding needed information. Choose teams carefully; this isn’t a job that should be shuffled off to a convenient temporary employee. The best people to choose have history with the organization and are very familiar with in-depth processes, traditions, branding and technical information. Don’t have someone available with all these traits? Assign a team of staff members with ranges of skills that complement each other.
Decide on Necessary Content
As the project proceeds, understand that not everything will fit within the page limitations of the publication. The person in charge of driving the project knows that different departments will have different goals. Technical experts will no doubt want to put everything in using incredible detail, whereas marketing department team members will prefer to keep things in broader terms to allow for more uncluttered whitespace in the design. A happy medium must be achieved. To avoid resentment from either group, hold a meeting and lay out the parameters of the brochure, the brand, budget and technical aspects of the product or service. Allow the team ample time to discuss a design compromise. This way, buy-in from both sides is achieved and no one is left in the dark. Managers driving literature design and printing projects know that technical accuracy is more important than aesthetics when it comes to making safe recommendations for the consumer. If at all in doubt, consult a qualified, licensed attorney regarding how to best represent the product or service to the marketplace.
Ask customers and staff what publishing formats they prefer. The answer is not always the fanciest design; sometimes a single page, vanilla technical reference sheet will do the job just as well and be far more cost-efficient.
Consider Publishing Format
Before the actual process of redesign begins, it is important to consider the end purpose. Is it going to be a printed brochure or just an electronic publication … perhaps both? Page sizes vary between Europe and North America; if physical printed copies are required, then this is definitely something to take into account. Due to supply chain shortages, paper is very expensive at the moment and in short supply. Remember when eBooks first came out and a few pundits announced the immediate demise of the paperback and hardcover? Well, that prediction fell flat and, like it or not, printed books still hold a large share of the market. In addition, one trend many ignored was the rapid rise of video and audio content: social media and podcasts anyone? Never underestimate their reach with the customer. If this is a document that will be downloaded, emailed and/or shared on social media, then ensure the file size isn’t too huge. There is nothing more frustrating than standing on a jobsite waiting for technical information taking forever to download. Ask customers and staff what publishing formats they prefer. The answer is not always the fanciest design; sometimes a single page, vanilla technical reference sheet will do the job just as well and be far more cost-efficient. Finally, ensure print dates of the publication are clearly listed on the outside back cover. This will be an invaluable reference for team members now and down the road, as well as for the company archivist.
Engage a Talented Graphic Designer
Everybody’s seen them: fluorescent pink flyers, brochures crammed full of too much information and the publications with seven different fonts on the cover. It truly is scary what some people consider appropriate and appealing. Consumers expect a modern look and feel with publications, and this means professional graphic design. Marry this with the print format selected for this project. Subtle branding and a restrained number of fonts are both wise. Select a trained professional with computer graphic design experience and patience. Ensure the graphic designer is well aware of the budget parameters and has quoted within guidelines. Decide who is authorized to provide edit requests to the graphic designer; this will prevent the inevitable confusion when multiple people give different instructions. Also, ensure the proper amount of time is allocated to the project. Proper research, writing and graphic design take time, so do not expect to have this project undergo start to finish within a mere thirty days.
Proof All Drafts
Give the team ample time to review proofs. Yes, this means much more than the intern giving it a brief glance during a quiet summer day. Ensure both marketing gurus and technical Subject Matter Experts have the chance to review it; this is where the real power of the assembled team comes in to effect. The team’s experienced people will catch tiny errors that make a big difference between accurate and failed publication. It’s always wise to ask someone with fresh eyes (i.e. someone who hasn’t read the piece before) to give it a once over and check for obvious typos. Better yet, ask someone outside the affected departments to read it with the customer in mind; this feedback on the first proof is like gold.
A strong suite of literature is a wonderful tool for lead generation, sales and follow up work. It also shares valuable information about warranties, installation and maintenance. Smart organizations take the time to create and maintain a good suite of literature to stay ahead in the marketplace. It’s not enough to have a quality product or service; the offering has to be backed up with supportive customer service and decent publications. This is achieved with a realistic assessment and revision of existing publications, well-designed teams, professional design and focused proofing. Overhauling an entire suite of literature is not a minor project and it should be given the serious attention it deserves. Bringing all these components together in the literature development process is far from easy, yet it is one of the most worthwhile exercises any organization will perform.
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