clear What Does It Take To Start a Publication?

Creating publications requires teamwork and meticulous planning. Half of the work has to be done before you even start to write. Planning for your publication means answering general and specific questions. Some general questions you need to answer first include:

  • Is your publication a one-time product or an ongoing one, such as a monthly newsletter?

  • What format do you have in mind—poster, flier, brochure, booklet, newsletter?

  • Would you like your publication printed in black and white, in more than one color, on colored paper?

  • Do you intend to use photographs or other graphics?

  • Does your intended format fit with the needs and interests of your audience?

Once you have answered these general questions, you will need to focus on the following specifics:

  • Who is the intended audience of your publication? Although the document may appeal to many people, the intended audience should be a specific group of people—a target group. The target group for a newsletter about your crime prevention organization could include the organization's members, funders, and other local supporters. Other people, such as parents of the group members and school staff and faculty, may be interested in the publication, but they are probably not the core group you want to address. For a poster on personal safety, the target group might be 9- and 10-year-olds. The poster could also educate high school students but the message should be directed at 9- and 10-year-olds.

  • How many copies of the publication will you need for your audience?

  • How will your readers get the publication? Will you distribute it to them or will they pick it up? Will it be for sale? If so, who will advertise it? Where will it be sold? How much will it cost? Who will handle the money? If your publication will be distributed for free, you need to know who will stock it. Where will you hand it out and what groups might include it in their mailings?

  • What do you want your readers to do once they've read your publication? Try to frame the answer to this question in terms of real actions. For example, the goal that "readers over age 65 will know three ways to say no to con artists" is more specific than "older people will understand swindlers and how to stop them." Describing your goal in terms of what your audience members will be able to do (whether it's to explain, to promote, to describe, to demonstrate, or to communicate) or what they will know once they've read your publication will ensure that you create a publication with a purpose.

  • What resources, e.g., cash or services, do you need and what is already available to you? Do you have writers in your group or do you need to recruit some? Have any services, such as printing, been donated or paid for? What research is involved? What will design and printing cost? How much money should you allow for postage? How much time is required for writing, editing, and printing?

By making even rough estimates, you may learn that you need to narrow or refine your message, revise your format, or find new resources. A journalism or graphic arts teacher or local printer may be able to help you with design and printing cost estimates. Consider asking the high school print shop to produce your document, or ask the local printer to reduce costs in return for your acknowledgment of the printer's support. Think about who needs to review the document (e.g., advisor, school board, principal) and who can help with editing and proofing it. The school newspaper staff may be willing to pitch in.

With this planning completed, you have built a good foundation for a useful publication. You are now ready to create your publication!

Planning a Successful Project

For more information on how to plan a successful project, see the National Youth Network's Planning a Successful Crime Prevention Project. This 28-page workbook explains the five steps of the Success Cycle:

  • Assessing Your Community's Needs.
  • Planning a Successful Project.
  • Lining Up Resources.
  • Acting on Your Plans.
  • Nurturing, Monitoring, and Evaluating.

The workbook includes six worksheets for you to take notes on. You can get a copy of this planning workbook from the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, listed in the "Resources" section. Good luck!

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Youth in Action Bulletin April 2000   black   Number 16