Running a print campaign to reach out to your community is a vital part of your communication and community engagement strategy. Solely relying on digital outreach will alienate and miss whole sections of the community you serve.

While it isn’t as instant as a social media campaign, printed materials can have a longer lasting effect and are worth putting the time and effort into. Not only are those who do not have access to digital platforms being missed, but it’s harder to be focused on your audience. With a printed campaign, you can be very targeted about where your message is reaching by physically handing people your books, leaflets or publications. 

The added bonus of printed materials is that by handing them out in person, your officers are also getting an extra opportunity to speak with community members and be seen in the community. 

This active shooter booklet  was distributed to schools and workplaces at no cost to the department that it was created for. This invaluable guide doesn’t just give vital information to citizens but it also helped to form relationships with those they serve.

Another agency also benefited from printed materials that were created by LAW Publications as Judith Goins from McKinley County Sheriff’s Office explains.

"As with most law enforcement facilities around the country, lack of funding is always an issue. Because of LAW Publications, our office was able to obtain much-needed educational material that we will share with the community geared toward specific topics that we have had a hard time finding from other vendors.”

Here are our tips on how to make a success of a print campaign

What are your engagement goals with your community?

There’s no point in starting a campaign until you know what you want to achieve. Take a thoughtful approach to what you need to inform or educate people about and ensure it fits in with the strategic aims and values of your agency. You may want to create something around drug education for students, teachers and parents but does it tie in with other outreach work you are doing?

How will you distribute your materials?

You should never expect people to come to your station to pick up the materials. This is about getting out into the community and making the most of what you have to offer. Use it as an opportunity to speak face to face to the people who look to you for guidance and reassurance. Your booklet may be about schools but is it worth stopping by the store to hand some out if it’s near a school?  If you’re looking to speak to college students, head to where they are. Places like football games, job fairs and campus libraries. 

There are so many places that people have time to spare to read. Hospitals, bus stations, driver license offices. Draw up a list of where your audience is likely to be. If you’re short of officers, look to find people in the community who would be willing to distribute them for you on your behalf. You may lose out on face to face engagement, which has dropped due to COVID, but you can still get your materials to the people that count.

Consider accessibility

It follows that many older community members may have different accessibility needs when it comes to printed materials. Does it need to be in larger print or have different color schemes? By understanding the needs of your audience, you’ll be able to provide a better product and service. 

If you’re not entirely sure who your audience is, you can get this defined using citizen personas. Read why citizen personas will help you create the best engagement as a PIO.

What languages are important to your community?

Always consider the primary languages of your community and ensure there are materials for non-English speakers. These are usually the people that need a different way to access vital information in times of emergency, so always ensure that there is an option in alternative languages if it is appropriate for your community. 

Get your timing right

The turnaround time of print materials can be six to eight weeks, so it’s important to get planning for key events in the year ahead. Your communication strategy should have key milestones and engagement opportunities mapped out, so you should look to have materials for these. Check with your local council to find out about key events where you might be able to have a presence and get your materials ready in advance. 

Achushnet PD is one of many departments across the country that benefit from the work of LAW Publications. We work with them to promote their service of free print resources to law enforcement and public sector agencies.

Working with LAW Publications is simple and you’re supported every step of the way. It starts with a discussion about what your goals and objectives are, then you’re taken care of right through to distribution. Considering the fact that there is no cost and little resource requirement from you as a department, it is a must-have tactic that you should consider adding to your communication and community engagement strategy.

February 21, 2022

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