How to write posters that get results: community

They may be low-tech, but posters – whether for a household brand name or a village jumble sale – are still highly effective and are still widely used. Here’s how to choose words that make them work successfully.

Before you start writing words to go on a poster, you need to think about where it’s going to be placed. Large posters at railway stations can contain more copy because people waiting for trains have time to look at them and read all the words.

A large poster by the side of the highway shouldn’t contain many words because drivers won’t have time to do more than glance at it. A poster that’s going to be put up alongside dozens of other posters needs to be eyecatching, both visually and verbally.

Busy, cluttered posters make a useful canvas for graffiti writers, but don’t get noticed half as much as one strong illustration with a few well-chosen words completing the picture. Even at a very local, parochial level, a poster will still benefit from simple creative thinking – for example, a poster for an English village fête: this is how most people would approach its wording…

St Bingo’s Annual Summer Fête

Saturday, June 23rd, 20XX

2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Tombolas

Cake stalls

Games

Children’s dancing display

XXXtown Brass Band

Draw for meal out and other prizes

Grand  opening at 2:45 by the Duchess of XXXshire

So where are the benefits? And is all that detail realistic?

Assuming you’re going to have posters up in as many locations in and around your village as possible, it’s worth splitting it into two types – one quick flash of the main point so people passing by in cars, bikes, etc. get the gist of it quickly, and the other a more detailed version for people to read when and where appropriate. And as for a benefit … how about this, first of all for the short version:

A great day out for your family … without leaving XXXtown!

St Bingo’s Summer Fête

Saturday June 23rd

Starts 2:30 – don’t be late!

And now, for the long version which people can read during a break from their shopping, while waiting for their bus, etc…

A great day out for your family … without leaving XXXtown!

St Bingo’s Summer Fête

It’s always a terrific day out for the family at St Bingo’s annual fête. This year it’s going to be bigger and better than ever, with the XXXtown Brass Band playing all afternoon and for the first time, the St Bingo Sunday School dancers’ new formation display. And there’s lots more…

  • Three tombolas
  • Games for all the family
  • Cake stalls
  • Locally grown organic fruit and veg stalls
  • Bring and buy stalls
  • Grand draw for delicious dinner for two with wine at the XXtown Bistro
  • You can even meet the Duchess of XXXshire who’ll open the fête at 2:45.
  • And don’t forget, it’s a great day out – right on your doorstep!

St Bingo’s Summer Fête Saturday June 23rd, 2:30 start. Don’t be late! 

This poster copy introduces an element of sell without losing the community touch. Hard, slick advertising speak would be out of place here.

Many posters of this type display all of their information in a lengthy list of bullet points. However assuming readers will have time to absorb it all, there’s no reason why you can’t put at least some of the information in the style of body copy prose, with bullet points here and there to give emphasis. Bullet points are great – especially online – but too many become confusing and are not inviting to read, whatever the medium.

So next time you’re asked to put some content together for a community-style poster, keep these two points in mind:

No matter what resistance you get from your community colleagues, make your case for including a distinct benefit in there somewhere. Particularly for events like summer fêtes or Holiday Season activities there will be a lot of competition for people’s participation – especially on weekends – so you need to make sure that posters advertising your activity really do stand out, so they get results.

And make sure you offer some benefits as well as features in your poster text … benefits really do work better than features alone!

Make sure all your writing gets results:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

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