Helping you get media coverage
RSS Sources Select News RSS Feed | SOURCESCalendar   

Making your marketing brochure a keeper


Last month, we looked at ways to create a customized toolkit for your organization, incorporating the best marketing tools for your target markets. This month, we’ll examine the value of creating a brochure as a tool to attract new clients, donors, and volunteers; generate revenue; raise awareness and provide credibility.

A good brochure will effectively communicate the most important facts about your organization. The best brochures combine elements of marketing (they sell your organization) and public relations (they educate the reader).

Before you begin
Ask (and answer) the following questions before you create new brochures. What do you want to achieve? Which markets are you trying to reach and persuade? What formats will work for you? What messages do you want to convey? How many will you produce over the next year?
Then think about how you’ll distribute it. A brochure is an excellent tool to reach a large audience. The key to success is deciding on your distribution channels before you create the copy, layout, and format, since the distribution will influence all three elements.
You might decide to distribute at special events and show booths. You could make it available through libraries, other agencies, community centres, religious organizations, and government agencies. Perhaps you’ll send it out in response to telephone inquiries and/or post it on your website. Think about using the Postal Walk service – see Canada Post’s website, and select the postal codes for distributing your brochure. This is a great way to reach the people who live or work in your immediate neighbourhood. It’s also possible to distribute a brochure by fax.

Too much copy, too little design
Many brochures are copy-heavy and visually unappealing. To avoid these mistakes, cut your copy by 1/3 and increase the visual appeal by incorporating boxes, screens, illustrations, and borders. These provide “white space,” which means room for the copy to stand out.
Consider a simple background for your brochure to make it easier to read: white or cream paper stock, with a glossy or linen finish depending on the type of organization you represent and the image you are creating. Two colours are enough for most nonprofit brochures. If you use photos in your brochure, considering including black as one of your two colours.

Common brochure formats
The three-panel brochure: The most common format for a brochure is three panels and two sided. It is easy to read and fits into a #10 envelope or a brochure display stand.
Outside shell, with pockets: A flexible format that enables you to change the copy according to your markets is the two-colour outside shell with one or two pockets. You can develop one-colour insert sheets for different target markets. I like the flexibility of this type of piece, since you can discard inserts when they are outdated and add new inserts at minimum cost.

The promotional brochure
A good promotional brochure contains the following elements:
A backgrounder on your organizationIn the first panel, include the background of your organization, its history, and mission statement. This information enhances the brochure.
Your services, products, and programs Provide an overview. Then describe each of these elements in detail.
One panel of useful information, such as “how-tos,” or 5 to 10 tips, definitions or statistics. This helps make your brochure a “keeper.”
Three or four testimonials (one or two lines each) from clients, volunteers, sponsors and donors. This “third party endorsement” shows the reader what other people say about your organization.
A call to action This could involve making a donation, becoming a volunteer, signing up for an event, or ordering a publication. It is a good way to start a dialogue with the reader.
All contact information: telephone number, website, e-mail, and fax.

The informational brochure
In this brochure, the focus of the copy is generic information that will be useful to your target markets, such as “how to”, a glossary of terms, Q and A, True and False, or Did You Know? This brochure also includes a backgrounder, testimonials, and contact information.

The testimonial brochure
A testimonial brochure focuses on what other people say about your organization. Include five or six testimonials from different target markets. This brochure also includes information on your services, programs, and events you offer.

A series of brochures
You can create a series of related brochures in different languages or highlighting different programs and services you offer. Make sure they are all consistent in images, logos, and fonts. Highlight different programs and markets. You can change the look and focus of each brochure in the series by using different colours and featuring different photos on each brochure.

Copywriting checklist
While writing the copy for your brochure, keep these ideas in mind. Keep your writing simple, clear, and consistent. Make sure your writing is interesting. Be specific rather than general or vague. Be believable, to earn the reader’s respect. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Never use jargon words. Motivate the reader to take action.
If you have created a three-panel brochure, review the contents at least once a year. Make sure that the copy continues to reflect your products, services, and programs and add some new tips and testimonials. For a brochure with inserts, discard outdated inserts and create new ones.

Susan Sommers founded her own public relations firm, susan sommers + associates, in 1982. Since then, she has created marketing and media relations programs for hundreds of nonprofit organizations across Canada. She has designed and delivered Key-to-the Sector Workshops in marketing and media workshops and teaches marketing and media relations courses through Continuing Studies, University of Toronto. She is also a popular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator for non-profit conferences and workshops.
Sommers’ latest book, Building Media Relationships, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 2008) is available through or indigo, ca.

Visit Susan’s website at or e-mail her at