Tip: Flyers and Posters


While the rest of the world is running away from print advertising, it still remains a core communication channel for most libraries. In many ways, print makes sense because unlike most retailers, libraries have lots of traffic that comes into their buildings; there are customers who still prefer not to use the Internet to receive information; and we have access to places in the community that will allow us to post materials for free. But just because people are walking by your flyers or posters doesn’t mean they are paying attention to them. Effective print advertising requires careful thought and design.

Getting Started

The Most Important Things You Need to Do Before You Create a Flyer

There are three simple [but important] things to identify before you make your flyer or poster:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • Why will people come?
  • What do you want your customers to do?

LibraryAware Tip:  Have these questions been a part of your planning process? If not, consider using them the next time you start planning a program.

Who are you trying to reach?

Imagine walking up to a stranger and trying to start a conversation. What goes through your mind? Without thinking about it, you’ll probably notice whether the person is a male or female, how old the person is, and what language is being spoken.

Print materials for your library are trying to speak to strangers as well. For effective communications, ask yourself a few questions so you know how to “speak” to them.

Three basic ways to group audiences are: 

  1. What are the demographics (age, sex, income, marital status and race)?
  2. Are they part of any group (small business owners, Manga Club members, book club members, etc.)?
  3. Is there a specific language, slang or buzzwords they use to communicate with? 

The answers to these questions will help you select the best wording and images for your promotions.

LibraryAware Tip:  A great way to get ideas for language and images is to look at magazine and TV ads that appeal to the same audience.

Why will people come?

Before you start designing your materials, ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” In other words, what’s the benefit to your customer?

You know your program is going to be fantastic.  Your challenge is to communicate why it’s going to be worth your customer’s time to pull away from their favorite TV program, warm couch and yummy snacks to drive or walk to your library.

Start with the “big picture reasons.” Then ask yourself, “How will my program help my audience achieve that?”  For example, if you are giving a workshop for jobseekers, the benefit isn’t just that they will write a resume, but that they will improve their lives.

The top 10 “big reasons” why people do things:

  1. Feel better about themselves.
  2. Discover something new.
  3. Be part of a group.
  4. Be liked better.
  5. Feel more confident.
  6. Do something faster or easier.
  7. Save money.
  8. Become richer, smarter, more successful.
  9. Help the world to be better.
  10. Get something few others will have.

LibraryAware Tip:  “It’s all about them!” Without them, you’ve got nothing. When you know why people would come to your program, you can write descriptions that appeal to your audience.

What do you want your customers to do?

One last step before you start writing -- answer, in 5 words or less, what you want your customer to do.  This is the “Call to Action.”

Effective “Call to Action” phrases for libraries:

  • Sign up now
  • Register now
  • Visit us now
  • Go to our website now
  • Try it now
  • Come on over
  • Get your library card

LibraryAware Tip: If there is no call to action, there may be no action. Be specific!

Tips For Good Design

1. Command Attention

  • Clearly convey why someone should take you up on your offer.
  • Make the copy easy to read -- less is more -- think bullet points rather than paragraphs.
  • Use bold colors and professional quality photographs.
  • Keep it simple. You only have a few seconds to grab your customer’s attention, don’t confuse them with a complicated design. 
  • Short headlines are the most powerful  --  say it in 9 words or less.
  • Answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”  Use your words to describe the benefit to your customer, not to explain something.
  • People read left to right, top to bottom -- write accordingly!
  • Speak their language. Different groups use different phrases. Use simple words to relate and entice, not to impress.

2. Fonts

  • Use only one or two fonts.
  • Use fonts that can be read from a short distance.
  • Use fonts that appeal to your audience.

3. White Space

  • Improves readability.
  • Directs a viewer’s eyes.
  • Creates a clean and refreshing visual effect.
  • White space isn’t wasted space -- it allows the customer to focus on what’s important.

4. Tone

  • Are the fonts and images appropriate for your audience?
  • Is the language/lingo the same as your audience?
  • Are the colors right for your audience? 

Getting a Great Response to Your Flyer or Poster

You may have heard of the 40-40-20 Rule, which has been around for a while and applies to your print publications.  The rule defines your focus: 40% right product, 40% right audience and 20% creative content.

So, for libraries, the right product means giving your customers what they want.  The right audience means making sure you know who your audience is.  The creative content means making sure your message is engaging, creative and memorable. You can design the greatest poster, but if it doesn’t speak to your audience or is not placed where your audience can see it, chances are you will not have the response you’re seeking.

Tips For Writing Great Content

1. Headlines

  • Create excitement  -- include the most compelling customer benefit.
  • Grab attention with questions.
  • Speak to an individual, not a group.

2. Copy

People respond to words. When creating a flyer or poster, you want your words to entice people to take you up on your offer. Use words that trigger a positive emotional response.

Power Words

  • Achieve
  • New
  • Easy
  • Proven
  • Results
  • Guarantee


  • Focus on what will make someone want to come, then say it.
  • Use snappy copy that “sells” the program.
  • Rephrase things to sound appealing -- small = intimate.
  • Talk about what is unique about your event or service.
  • Show how it solves a  problem.

3. Images

  • When you have well-known people or products, let those images sell your event.
  • The more recognizable the person, the larger his/her image should be on the flyer or poster.
  • If it’s an author and the book is well-known, include a picture of it on the flyer or poster.
  • Make sure images are 300 dpi and will not print out pixilated.
  • If you can’t get a good image of the person, don’t use it.
  • Use images that convey excitement about the speaker or topic.
  • One strong image is better than a hundred little ones.
  • Use images that look like the people you want to attract.
  • Choose photographs over illustrations, illustrations over clip art.

Measuring Success

Posters and flyers represent just two promotional materials you use to get the word out.  You’ll probably also use email, media, social media, web postings and news releases.  For that reason, it’s a little tricky trying to measure the direct impact of a specific print material.  One way to get a handle on this is to ask people either through a survey or a quick show of hands how they learned about the program. For more ideas on getting feedback see the Feedback on Programs and Feedback on Services pages.

Added Value For Your Library

  • Posters and flyers posted throughout the community provide visibility, creating LibraryAwareness.
  • Well-designed posters and flyers not only brand the library in the community, but also build a foundation for increased visibility for additional library programs.
  • Well-designed promotional materials, as part of a suite of branded materials, strengthen the marketing message for that program.  Well-designed materials communicate a positive image of the library to the community.

Five Things To Do

  1. Be clear on who your target audience is.
  2. Make sure the customer understands the benefit of what your library is offering.
  3. Remember that your print materials represent your library.
  4. Place promotional materials outside of your library.
  5. Repurpose content into additional promotional materials.

Things NOT to do

Things Not To Do When Creating Flyers or Posters

  1. Avoid over-used phrases.
  2. Never use library jargon.
  3. Don’t fill the space with too many messages.
  4. DON’T SCREAM AT YOUR AUDIENCE WITH ALL CAPS or exclamation points!!!!!!!!!! 

3 Things Not To Do With Images

  1. Do not use amateur-looking clip art.
  2. Do not use word art in place of images.
  3. Do not use images that are pixilated or cropped in peculiar ways.

Things NOT To Do When Writing Copy

  1. Do not use pat phrases that sound like a late night infomercial.
  2. Do not use adverbs and adjectives,  use verbs or nouns.
  3. Do not sound too slick -- keep it real -- be approachable.

Feedback and Knowledge Base