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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The political election leaflet - time for a makeover.

There is a thud on the floor in the hall. The post has arrived. No it hasn’t, it’s an electoral leaflet from one of the main political parties. Normally, I treat these offerings like the latest pizza outlet blurb.

Just for once and because there is nothing else pressing, I give the offering a tighter look. Things are even worse than I thought. This is a literary genre in real need of a makeover.

So what’s gone wrong? Assume that the voter has a cynical and sceptical view of politics and that the time from posting to binning is seconds. What's in it for the reader?

First impressions count. A strong strapline, imaginative use of graphics, colour and layout are the basics. Beyond that a mass of text is a no no – peoples’ eyes just glaze over. Tight copy with short sentences and paragraphs are the order of the day, if only because the reader may have English as the second language. Contrived grainy photos which make the passport variant look good add to the picture.

Cost is a consideration but handing out A3-sized folded leaflets which look as they have just been duplicated on a standard photocopier, is cost-cutting at its worst. They compare badly against a smaller A5 creation on glossy and heavier paper. Cheap business cards set the tone for your company, so don’t be surprised if the same ethic transfers to politics.

Finally to content. Voters can see through the fatuous leaflets dressed up as “surveys”. Politicians should already have a handle on the issues in their areas. A survey is a bit late in the day. Equally, a photo of the candidate with a broom in the hand comes across as crass. How many residents do we see sweeping up public space?

We want tight rhetoric and choice of words. We want a strong image of the candidates and what they stand for. We want the personality of the candidate to hit us.

Critically, we need to know what makes the candidates different as we lend them our votes.

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