Guest Post By Samantha Cox (@samanthamcox)
As the saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, that may be sound advice for the dating world, but when it comes to books – and the public relations industry – I must respectfully disagree.
When I walk into a bookstore (my personal kid-in-a-candy-store moment) the first things I look at are the book covers. I walk up and down the aisles, scanning the shelves and letting my eyes linger for less than a second on various ones, waiting for that spark of interest to ignite. It’s only when I feel that flame settle on a particularly appealing cover that I stop and take the book down to learn more. Be it eye-catching colors, distinctive images or unique styles, that first impression is everything.
Perhaps it’s not the best method, but we all do it.Though I’m not a book publisher or cover designer, I can’t imagine either one saying, “No, don’t worry about the cover. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” We’re trying to sell a product here, people. Take wine for example. Ask any honest consumer who, like me, doesn’t know much about vino and they’ll tell you – if they haven’t heard of the wine, they will choose the coolest looking label. Plain and simple.
Image, of course, is an important part of the public relations industry. Just as a bad book cover can deter a reader from discovering a great story, an unappealing design or messy formatting can sometimes keep a client or media contact from considering a promising idea. Whether you’re creating something on behalf of your agency or your client, here are a few simple tips to keep in mind:
Sometimes, less is more – In many cases, the simplest cover designs can be the most eye-catching. Likewise, when you’re giving a presentation, don’t overwhelm your audience. The text on the slides should be limited to key words and phrases – it isn’t there to be read, it’s there to guide you. Similarly, using too many images on each slide can detract from the presentation rather than enhance it. When in doubt, go for a clean, simple look.
Consistent formatting goes a long way – While unique and creative fonts can work for some books, they can be difficult to read and should be avoided when it comes to professional documents and presentations. Stick to the usual suspects (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri and those similar), and most importantly, stick with the same font throughout. If you’re using Times New Roman, size 12, for a section’s title, use it for every section’s title. From font styles and sizes to paragraph spacing, make sure everything is consistent.
Keep it in the family – Would the second or third book in a series look completely different from the other books in that series? No. They come from the same family, and that should be clear from looking at them. Always make sure you’re using the approved brand colors and styles. The same tone and feel should be carried throughout all materials, from small things like letterhead to bigger things like presentations and websites.
PROOF, PROOF, PROOF – Nothing is more distracting than a typo or grammatical error (I know it’s not technically an error, but boy do I hate the comma before “and” in a series). Not only do errors divert the reader’s attention, but they make you look at best careless, and at worst unintelligent. Every piece should be proofed multiple times and always by someone other than the author. There are few worse feelings in the communications world than sending something out and realizing 10 seconds later that it had a typo. When in doubt, consult your AP Stylebook.
So I say go ahead, judge a book by its cover. Keep that judgmental tendency in mind as you write and design content on behalf of your agency and your clients. Believe me, they’ll thank you in the end.