Working with designers and printers

Where possible, you should employ professional designers and printers to produce your materials. Where possible go by personal recommendation and work with a small number of agencies and printers.

If you are not confident in dealing with printers, you can ask a designer or design agency to handle the whole process for you. Be clear about how much they charge for this project management function. You can ask the designers to secure a range of competitive quotes for you which allow you to make the final decision.

For advice on commissioning design, and a template for a creative brief, see the section on branding.


Think carefully about the quantity of material you need. Accurate estimates will reduce the cost of print and avoid storage problems.

Printing costs are the main factor. Fixed costs for preparatory work such as preparing plates and setting up machines mean that small quantities can be relatively expensive to produce. Generally, the unit cost drops if you increase the quantity you have printed. However, while it may be worth taking advantage of a cheaper price for more copies, try only to order what you actually need.

Key points to consider:

  • Always ask printers for estimates based on different quantities so you can see the marginal cost.
  • Work out an accurate estimate of how many copies you actually need. An initial run of 500 and then a reprint of 1500 will be more expensive than getting an initial 2,000 printed.
  • Think about the shelf life of your publication. If it will only be relevant for a year, there is no use ordering two years' worth of supplies.
  • Consider how you will store your publications – materials can be bulky and you can end up with boxes of unused publications in small offices.
  • If the cost of print is uneconomic, consider publishing your material in electronic format such as a document on your website. Only do this if it is an appropriate way to reach your target audience.


Think in advance about how you will distribute your materials. The size and weight of the material are important factors. It may be tempting to produce a bulky report or a publication in an unusual size or shape, but you have to think about how much this will cost.

Mail outs

If you are mailing publications, weight will determine the cost of distribution. You'll need to allow for the cost of special envelopes or packaging for anything that that won't fit into a standard sized envelope.

Weight will also be a factor if you are asking other organisations to distribute material on your behalf. For example, most magazines will charge a price based on weight for inserting materials into their publication.

It can be time consuming to mail out large amounts of material. If you do this infrequently then you may wish to handle the work in-house, but if it is regular occurrence it may be more efficient to use a local mailing house.

Generating mailing lists

Whichever way you handle distribution, you will need accurate mailing lists and labels. It takes time to build mailing lists, but this will be a vital part of your impact plan.

Key points to consider when building a mailing list:

  • Use existing reference books such as the Civil Service Year Book or the Whitehall Companion (see useful resources under public affairs section) or buy in lists from specialist suppliers.
  • Be aware of the provisions of the Data Protection Act in terms of using and selling any information you gather.
  • Keep your lists up to date and weeded regularly – you will look unprofessional if you are sending out material to people who have left the target organisation.
  • Include a postcard or other reminder in publications, asking people to update their details.

Contact management systems

You may find it useful to invest in a contact management system. This is software that helps you keep track of your contacts and generate lists. For smaller projects, some basic systems can be downloaded free of charge.

Covering letters

Depending on the target audience, you may need to include a covering letter when distributing material. This is especially important when targeting high profile audiences such as MPs or CEOs where you cannot assume that a secretary or researcher will know what to do with the material you have sent. The covering letter should be short and explain the purpose of the material and its particular relevance to that audience.