First, credit where it's due - getting a leaflet out to every house in Britain in under a fortnight is not an easy logistical thing to do. I assume that the Royal Mail were more co-operative than they usually are to us political campaigners at election time, but even so, the Governments have done a good job on physically getting it out.
They don't often do this, so you would think that the leaflet itself would be useful and relevant and would make people want to read it.
Sadly, this does not seem to be the case. However, it does escape being the most useless thing I've read this week. The instruction leaflet which came with the rabbit worming paste the vet gave (actually sold at extortionate price) us the other day for our cute baby bunnies has that honour. Honestly, I doubt the person who wrote it has ever been in the same room as a rabbit. This stuff comes in a tube with a plunger that you push in to deliver the required dose for each of 9 consecutive days. The leaflet says "Panacur Rabbit should be administered orally by squeezing the paste from the syringe into the side of the mouth."
All sounds very easy. Its major flaw, though, is that it assumes co-operation on the part of the rabbits. Benjamin and Patches were having none of it. I have tried holding them every which way, even cradling them like babies and stroking their necks until they go all flopsy but end up getting more of this stuff on me than on them. How in the hell are you supposed to pacify a wriggling bunny and make sure that you don't overdose them? Although, to be honest, overdosing wasn't the problem. Getting any of the stuff anywhere near their mouths is more of a challenge. IKEA flat pack instuctions, or even the ones that came with their hutch that took my husband 2 days to build, will seem easy in the future.
I digress, though. Back to the Swine Flu leaflet. My first concern is the picture on the front. On film, the man sneezing his snot all over the lift turns even the most cast iron of stomachs. I'm not sure it works in still photography. It could be interpreted that the thing to do if you sneeze is to put your hand in front of your mouth, and some people who can't see very well just won't see the gloop going everywhere.
Then you have in small print that the leaflet contains important information to help you and your family and then in larger white print KEEP IT SAFE. If you can't read the first bit, you might be a bit confused about what to keep safe.
I would have put a quick reference guide, with graphics, to prevention, as close to the front as possible,along with the list of emergency numbers. As it is, it's hidden on page 6, after several pages of very unappealing text. The what to do if you think you might have swine flu languishes on page 8-9.
I don't think it would have actually taken rocket science to put the page numbers on the list of contents on page 1, either.
The leaflet itself tells me absolutely nothing that I didn't know already, but I guess not everybody watches the news channels with the same obsession that I do. My main issues is that it's not always clear and that it's back to front. I wonder if people will give up half way through the boring stuff.
And then, on page 10, you have the chance to order more copies - you can even have some in Braille if you can see the small print it's written in.
What do other people feel about whether one single leaflet to every house is effective? It certainly does tie in with stuff on other media so it's not being sent in complete isolation. It just strikes me as a bit of an expensive way of telling most people what they know already.
Most people have at least one of television, radio and pc - I wonder if those are better at reaching people.
If it is a good idea to spend millions on this method of distribution, I think they could have made a better job of it.
If the Government ever needs any help with designing effective literature, I can recommend a few of my friends.........