Citizen’s Guide to Creating Fact Sheets

Delegate Fast reviews information during a committee hearing. WV Legislative Photograph, Photo by Perry Bennett.

BY TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, AND EMMA PEPPER, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS, THE HUB

Moving forward a policy change that’s in the best interest of your community has the potential to move the needle in a big way. One key tool to use is known as a “fact sheet” or “1-pager.” This simple tool has the potential to keep all of the people we are partnering with moving in the same direction, assist you in gaining support from new people, and help to keep key decision-makers informed about your issue.

We’ve put together some key tips here to help make your fact sheet shine. 

What is a Fact Sheet?

A fact sheet is a 1 page (often front and back) document that highlights the most important information about the issue you’re working on, in a visually appealing way. It generally includes three categories of information:

  1. What the problem or challenge is.
  2. Your suggestion for how to solve the problem.
  3. Action the reader can take to help solve the problem.

For example, check out this fact sheet we developed for a policy that West Virginia’s Abandoned Properties Coalition is working on in the 2020 legislative session. The audience for this fact sheet is legislators.

When to Use a Fact Sheet 

Fact sheets are broadly useful and can help you communicate your message in a variety of circumstances. A few examples are:

  • During a meeting with decision-makers such as legislators. Fact sheets can be used to help explain the scope of the challenge you’re working on or the finer points of what your solution would accomplish. You can also leave the fact sheet with the person to refer to later. 
  • When preparing supporters to speak publicly on your issue. Whether you are helping to prepare citizens to speak at a public hearing or expert witnesses to speak at a committee meeting, going over a fact sheet can help make sure that they clearly and consistently communicate about the issue.
  • Asking organizations or individuals to sign a letter of support for your issue. If you have clearly articulated what your policy would do if passed, everyone can be sure of exactly what they are supporting.
  • As you gather support from fellow citizens. Use a fact sheet as you’re educating other citizens on your issue and building momentum and support for your initiative.

Tips for Creating Your Fact Sheet

  • Lead with your solution. Phrase your desired outcome in the form of a one to two sentence statement and lead with that. Make it visually prominent on the page. You can follow up with information on why this issue is important, what your solution is, and close with what you want the reader to do about it. 
  • Only include essentials. Too much text is the primary flaw in most fact sheets. Phrase things simply and directly. Use bulleted lists instead of paragraphs when possible and make text large enough to read quickly.
  • Illustrate your point – literally. Communicating information in a way that’s visually appealing doesn’t have to be intimidating. We use a free web-based graphic design service called Canva. If you search for “Proposal” in their templates, you will see several options to get started. Excellent fact sheets can also be developed in Microsoft Office or even Google Docs if you’re more comfortable with those platforms. 
  • Include a photograph, chart, or infographic to help tell your story. Complicated information, such as lists of numbers, is often easier to digest if you take it out of paragraph format and put it a chart, graph, or infographic. Photographs of the people, projects, etc. that are impacted by the policy help to lend a human perspective. In general, visual interest will also help to break up text so that fact sheets are easier to read and make the paper pleasing to the eye to help keep readers interested longer. Check out Canva (search their templates for “Infographic”) and Infogram for help with making infographics. Still curious? Here’s an article on different ways to make infographics
  • Include a way to take action that works for the person reading the fact sheet. We usually create multiple versions of fact sheets with different calls to action for the different audiences we’re working with on the policy. Make your call to action specific and direct. For example, “Sign up for our mailing list at www.wvhub.org,” is more specific and direct than, “Make sure to read our emails.” For someone like a legislator, you may include a directive like, “Vote Yes on HB1000,” or you can make your call to action more general, “Vote to Increase the Number of Sidewalks in West Virginia.”

 

Follow these tips, and you’ll have fact sheets that keep you on message, and help you gain support from citizens and key decision-makers alike. 

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