But you don't need an emergency on your hands to make use of a fact sheet as a communications tool. Instead of struggling for analogies and graceful leads, perhaps what your audience needs is just the facts. I think many a news announcement would be better served by a fact sheet or two with a cover explanatory note, and any data-laden announcement would benefit from the form. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Brevity's a must. Please don't innovate a seven-page fact sheet. Keep it one page or less. If you have enough for more, consider separate fact sheets on separate sub-topics, and one overall fact sheet. Then let the users choose the ones they need.
- Consider the user. Fact sheets for reporters and those for the public may not need the same organizational structure--and they may need more background. Rather than go all-purpose--and vague--think about whether you need different fact sheets for different audiences.
- Use microcontent to make them work at-a-glance. Bullets, strategic use of bold type and subheadings, rather than paragraphs, make a fact sheet easy to use and use again.
- Cut out the flowery language. No quotes, no spin, no congratulations. Just numbers, names, dates and information, please.
- A fact sheet about Washington, DC, for travel and tourism professionals, part of "DC in a Box" from Destination DC. There's just the right amount of data, allowing users to be able to tell tour groups which are the most-visited museums and attractions, for example.
- A White House fact sheet about the early retiree reinsurance program offers a short opening paragraph, then sections off the fact sheet with the basics on who would be covered, what's included, effective dates and statistics driving the creation of this new program.
(A hat tip to In Case of Emergency, Read Blog, which alerted me to this good example. Go here to buy the "Thank you Firefighters" poster.)
Related post: When to skip the storytelling: 5 ways (including fact sheets)
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