Our How to Write a Fact Sheet post has consistently been one of our most popular tips over the past few years. To follow up on that, we wanted to provide you with our top three rules for a powerful fact sheet. It is important to note here that a fact sheet is an introductory educational piece that spurs initial action, such as requesting more information, checking out a website, visiting a store, etc.
The rules below are essential though often over-looked, yet, if followed, they are sure to boost the communication of your key messages to your target publics.
Rule #1: Stay within one page
We’re sure you’ve noticed that newspapers, magazines, ezines, etc. are serving up content in short, chunky bits more and more these days. Cnn.com lists a few bulleted highlights of each story at the beginning of each article. Why? Because nobody wants to read anything lengthy, even though they may get useful information from it. Readers want to know the most important information first. Thereafter, they’ll decide if they want to learn more. For the fact sheet, this means keeping it to one page. We’ve had people tell us that if a document is more than one page long, they automatically don’t want to read it or tell themselves they’ll read it later and never do. So, page length is definitely a factor in increasing the readership of a communications piece. To accommodate more copy, adjust margins but don’t go overboard and crowd the page or reduce the font to a miniscule size. Remember, the perception of length comes more from the number of pages than the number of words.
If you feel that you cannot communicate the basic who, what, where, when, why and how within one page, consider breaking up topics into several fact sheets. For example, if your intention was to write a fact sheet on all of your products, create a separate fact sheet for each product.
Rule #2: Communicate the gist in less than one minute
A reader should be able to get the main message and direction of your fact sheet in less than one minute. Formatting comes into play here. The content of your fact sheet should be laid out in distinct categories. Use bold font to distinguish the categories so readers can pick or choose what they want to read. Within those categories, bulleted or numbered lists work well. Think of your fact sheet as a map. When someone first looks at it, are they able to get their bearings quickly (scanning categories to figure out the general progression of the piece) and navigate confidently (if they need certain information, they can easily find it)? Also, be sure that the fact sheet is written in short, simple sentences that allow for easy reading and comprehension.
Rule #3: Provide ALL contact information clearly
Don’t you just hate it when you’re trying to contact a company and you can only find a phone number or website response mechanism, when all you really want to do is email them? Or when there’s only one way to contact a company and that way doesn’t work. Grrr… A fact sheet should include all of your company’s contact information from phone numbers to email, website address, Facebook address, etc. Every person may prefer contacting you via a different medium, and you certainly don’t want to miss their inquiry. Moreover, if you print your fact sheet on company letterhead that has your contact information pre-printed on it, it may still be a good idea to repeat this information in a separate category in the body of the piece. Sometimes contact information on letterhead is in a smaller font or designed in a unique way to make certain that there is enough white space on the letterhead. Having the separate contact information category in the information paper guarantees that your reader will see it easily. And, repetition never hurts.
It’s easy to bend the above rules, but remember that the more rule bending you do, the higher the chance that your fact sheet will go un-read and your goals un-met. Sticking to the rules will give you every opportunity to produce a powerful, effective fact sheet. For a free fact sheet template, click here.