5. Set clear objectives
You need to be clear what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to get people to take a particular action? Help people to avoid a problem? Guide people through a process? Raise awareness of a right and how it can be used? The most successful information has one - or at the most, two - clearly defined objective.
6. Research your audience’s situation
It is important that you know about the realities of your audience's situation. You need to know who they are ( sometimes including their age, gender, education, ethnic background or socio-economic group) their level of existing knowledge, their capabilities, other help they can access, and how they are likely to be feeling.
Research from your desk (see resources for where to start), set up a focus group so you can ask the audience themselves, or ask intermediaries who know them well.
7. Select an appropriate format
Obviously, you need to select the format that will be most appropriate for your audience. Usually, not all your audience will be able to make use of any one format. Aim to produce your information in a format that most of your audience can access (for example a leaflet, or a podcast), put aside a small budget for one-off requests for other formats, and promote the fact that other formats are available.
8. Plan your delivery
Plan how you will get your information to your target audience from the start. There is evidence that information handed to you by a person is valued more than information you just pick up. Contact people who work with your target audience to see if they might be willing to distribute it to their clients. If it is available on the web, contact websites used by your audience to see if they can help promote it.
9. Work with a panel of experts
If you aren't helping clients deal with the issue every day, work with a panel of people who are. They will know what the needs of your audience are, the common mistakes and misunderstandings, and how things work in practise for different groups or areas. This will ensure that the information you produce is as helpful as possible. Advisers are ideal because they usually know your audience and their needs well. Lawyers, academics, and other subject specialists are often really helpful. If your information explains how to use a process, people who work in or use that process will also be helpful.
10.Don't get lost in translation
Whether or not to translate information can be a difficult question. Translating everything, regardless of the needs of your audience, would seem to be a waste of resources. If significant proportions of your intended audience read another language and do not read English well enough, translation is definitely a good idea. But be aware that direct translation is rarely enough. The audience for a translated leaflet will usually have a different cultural background and gaps in knowledge about things like UK institutions that can produce misunderstandings. If the funding can be found, it is definitely preferable to adapt information to the needs of this audience, rather than simply translate. Work with members of your audience and intermediaries to ensure that the translation will meet their needs.
11. Test it out
Pilot your information with members of your audience before publication, and use their feedback to improve it. They are the only people that will be able to tell you which bits they didn't understand, if you answered all their questions, or if they stopped reading because they were too confused or bored.
12. Evaluate it
Try to evaluate at least some aspect of your information each time. Evaluation enables us to learn from our mistakes or successes, and get us closer to establishing exactly how we can produce the information our audience needs. Don’t be afraid to do a partial evaluation. Evaluating one or two aspects of the information or its production can be as useful as attempting to evaluate everything. Be brave - share the results with other organisations, so that we can all learn from each other. Evaluations can be shared on Plenet