Standard Questions Lead to Effective Document Design

by Louellen Coker on August 17, 2009

2009-10 Lone Star Community Member Mailer Post Card

2009-10 Lone Star Community Member Mailer Post Card

We recently had the opportunity to work with the Lone Star Community (LSC) of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) to develop their member mailer. Before diving in to the project, I asked membership committee a few standard questions to help us understand the purpose of their project. These are the first questions we ask our clients when they come to us with a new project.

This post is a dissection of how our client’s answers allowed us to create a document that achieved their goals within their budget.

What is the purpose of your document?

Answer

Knowing the purpose of your document is vital. When I say purpose, I mean the reason for which you are creating the document. The LSC puts out an annual membership mailer to announce their new program year as well as tell their members about the new and exciting as well as returning events that are coming up. The mailer is a gentle touch to remind members that after a summer break, the organization is still going strong.

Solution

Create some sort of mailer that achieves the purpose. Our postcard gives a quick glimpse of what is coming up as well as a reminder about all the organization has to offer.

Where will people receive, find and/or be using your document?

Answer

The answer to this one was easy. Since it’s a membership mailer, members will be receiving it in their daily mail. (You know, the old fashioned method that requires printing and stamps.) We opted to continue the physical mailer to be able to reach members who haven’t signed up to receive email updates. And since this is a professional organization, a good percentage of the recipients receive the mailer at work.

Solution

Create something that will stand out among all the other mail and have a fighting chance of being read. We chose the image becuase it is different that the typical image used by companies.

What image do you want to project with the document?

Answer

Professional but with a hint of fun. A look and feel that gets away from the doom and gloom of the current economic situation while conveying a positive outlook.

Solution

Use eye-catching and inviting images that convey professionalism and encourage members to look toward what is next in their careers. With all the layoffs our members have experienced, we know they are fervently looking for employment. The child looking through the binoculars conveys that we know our members are searching for something. Also, the image picks up a sense of adventure to find what lies ahead. We felt it would provide a bit of optimism.

What information do you want to convey in the document?

Answer

In years past, the membership mailer included a letter from the incoming president, contact information, flyers for competition deadlines, award deadlines, membership directory, and a calendar for upcoming programs. With the cost of printing and postage going up and the budget shrinking, the organization wanted to convey all that the community has to offer in the least expensive way possible.

Solution

Provide members with pertinent contact information, deadlines, and meeting information in a postcard rather than packet format.

What action do you want people to take?

Answer

Know that the program year is starting off and to visit the website for additional information, ultimately come to meetings, join social networking groups, and know that the LSC is a resources in their career landscape.

Solution

Present the information in a manner that encourages people to visit the website and utilize all the career resources offered on the site. You’ll see that we put the website front and center and that we also listed how they could find the organization in LinkedIn and Twitter. (At the time of this post, we had just mailed it, so we don’t have the convesion numbers just yet.)

How much do you want to spend?

Answer

The LSC is typical of all non-profit entities. They accomplish as much as they can with every penny they spend. With the membership mailer being one of the largest expenses of the year, it was important to the group to reduce the costs as much as possible.

Solution

Create a postcard that could be printed 4-up on a page and mailed for a lower rate. See image above for the result. If you’re a member of the Lone Star Community, check your mailbox for the finished product. 🙂

These questions provide the foundation of any good document design. Once you have the answers to these questions, you and your designer can create a document that ultimately will acheive your goals.

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