By: Sally Thompson, VegFund Volunteer
When deciding which literature to use at an outreach event, there are a number of factors to consider. First, there’s the obvious: make sure you select brochures that are relevant to the event. For example, if you’re tabling at an eco-fair, you’ll want to have literature that highlights the connections between veganism and the planet. VegFund’s recommended literature page is a great place to start, as it provides literature suggestions that are broken down by category (e.g., animal rights, health, environment, etc.).
Once you’ve decided which category (or categories) of literature are appropriate for your target audience, you’ll then need to pick a brochure that effectively conveys the message. Let’s take a look at some of the major factors that make for an effective brochure.
A pamphlet cannot educate or persuade if the message it is conveying is not clearly understood by the reader. While this may seem obvious, according to a study by The Humane Research Council (2011), many vegan educational materials are written 3 to 4 grades higher than the average US adult’s reading level! Ideally, to be comprehensible for the largest proportion of the public possible, materials should be written at a 7th to 8th grade reading level. Look for literature that uses short sentences and that avoids difficult vocabulary. To test the reading level of a given piece, you can go to www.readability-score.com.
Sometimes, in an attempt to cover all the bases, brochures will squeeze in as much information about the animal agriculture industry and the benefits of veganism as possible (O’Connor 2012). However, research suggests that this can overwhelm readers, regardless of their reading ability (Glasser 2012). Decision-making can be a complex process, and when presented with too many options, ‘ego fatigue’ sets in and people are less likely to act or make a good decision (Glasser 2012). Therefore, try to select literature that clearly presents a few key points. Additionally, instead of offering a table with dozens of different brochures, offer a small selection of quality pieces.
When we hear a story, we tend to relate it to our own experiences and are therefore more receptive to taking in the information (Widrich, 2012). Try to find literature that not only relays information about the mass suffering caused by animal agriculture, but that also tells the story of an individual animal. This will help the reader relate to the issue and reduce the likelihood that they switch off altogether.
The use of particular words has also been shown to be effective. A study by Courtney Dillard (2011) suggested that by using words that establish unity and common ground such as ‘we’, ‘our’ and ‘us’ we can more effectively engage people. Even if you’re unable to find brochures with this particular language, using this language while handing out brochures is a great way to increase receptiveness.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Research suggests that the inclusion of visuals within educational material results in a greater degree of learning and understanding (Stokes 2001), and colourful images assist in emphasising information (Pennisi & Winder 2011). Additionally, research by The University of Nebraska found that the attractiveness of a pamphlet determines how likely a person is to pick it up and to continue reading (Pennisi et al. 2011). It is important that there is balance between text and imagery within the pamphlet in order to guide the reader through the information provided and draw their attention to specific areas of its pages (Pennisi & Winder 2011).
So, remember – Simple, concise, and engaging. Keep these factors in mind when evaluating literature and you’ll be able to reach even more people with the vegan message of compassion!
Dillard, C (2011) Strategic Communication for Activists. Humane Thinking Blog.
Glasser, C.L. (2012) Simplifying Advocacy Materials – Understanding Decision Fatigue.
Humane Research Council (2011) Readability of Vegan Outreach Literature.
O’Connor, M (2012) How to Spread Information Without Being Overbearing. [Online]
Pennisi, L.A., Gunawan, Y., Major, A.L., Winder, A. (2011) How to Create an Effective Brochure. NebGuide.
Pennisi, L.A., Winder, A.A. (2011) Effective Graphic Design. NebGuide.
Stokes, S (2001) Visual Literacy in Teaching and Learning: A Lierature Perspective. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education.
Widrich, L (2012) The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains.