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International Cooperation

Public Participation Guide: Printed Information

Printed material is still one of the easiest and most effective ways to provide information on a project or issue, or to publicize a participation process such as an event or meeting. Popular forms include: fact sheets, flyers, newsletters, brochures, post cards, issue papers, and summary reports. These can be single purpose or be produced as a series for distribution over time. Printed material can be distributed at meetings, made available for the public to pick up, or mailed out either directly to a select mailing list, distributed through third party community groups, or included as ‘bill stuffers’ with regular mail distribution such as utility bills or local newspapers.

Advantages

  • Aims to provide concise summaries of issues through easily scanned words and graphics, to inform a community about an issue or proposal
  • Printed information can be easily handed out and carried away
  • Can be designed to allow for limited public input through comment forms
  • Reaches a large amount of people through mailing or distribution at public outlets
  • Facilitates the documentation of the public participation process
  • Can be a relatively low-cost means of publicity

Challenges to Consider

  • Printed materials need to be brief and there may be limited space to communicate complicated concepts
  • There is no guarantee that the materials will be read
  • If mailed, the guarantee of being read is only as good as the mailing list itself; mailing lists need regular updating to avoid wasted time, energy, and paper
  • Appearance of the material should be visually interesting but should avoid a “sales” look
  • Can be lost if sent by general mail or included with many other flyers and bill stuffers
  • Requires a literate audience

Principles for Successful Planning

  • Plan your messages well
  • Provide regular updates, but do not bombard people with information
  • Consider strong graphics and branding materials so they are easy to identify and associate with your project
  • Make all documents simple and easy to understand
  • Try to keep most printed materials to a single sheet of paper
  • Consider creative ways of organizing information
  • Provide points of contact, such as the name of a central information contact or details of the participation program
  • Do not overload materials with too much information
  • Limited public input can be sought through printed public information materials by including surveys and questionnaires or comment/response sheets
  • Include return postage for any response cards
  • Consider postcards or self mailers instead of items that require an envelope. These will catch the reader’s attention and are cheaper to mail
  • The material should be easily available to the public and be accessible from a number of locations
  • Include information about the public’s role in the participation process and opportunities for participation in all communication
  • Keep mailing lists up to date and check for duplication to save money, time and paper
  • If distributing as a bill stuffer, speak to distributor of the bills and find out when they need the material in order to go out in the appropriate mail out, and in what format. Check what else is being distributed with bills, and decide whether your flyer will have a good chance of being read. Deliver/arrange for printer to deliver to agency/department who will stuff and distribute

Resources Needed

Staffing

  • Writers
  • Editors
  • Graphic designers
  • Technical staff
  • Mailing and distribution support

Materials

  • Paper
  • Printing
  • Postage

Planning Time

  • Set up is relatively simple but requires commitment to long-term maintenance and staffing.

Implementation Time

  • Production and distribution of printed materials should be maintained throughout the life of the project

Group Size

  • Unlimited

Cost

  • Can be extremely low cost if done electronically only
  • Cost of printing and mailing hard copies is primary expense

Most relevant participation levels:

  • Printed information is important at all levels of participation

Explore the full Public Participation Guide.


Contacts

For additional information on EPA's Public Participation Guide, contact:

Shereen Kandil
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2650R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: kandil.shereen@epa.gov