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How to Distribute Flyers in a Neighborhood Legally
Flyer Operations

How to Distribute Flyers in a Neighborhood Legally

September 5, 2022
Shelly Parker
Content Manager
Table Of Content
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For years now businesses have focused so much of their budgets and time on digital marketing that some of the traditional elements of direct marketing have been forgotten or at least not maximised.

 Whilst the reach and power of digital marketing is not disputed, for a lot of businesses, going back to strong local marketing can be incredibly powerful and cost-effective. One element of this is leaflet marketing, giving you the ability to put messages directly in front of your target local audience. But it is important to understand the legal implication of leaflet distribution.

What Is Flyer Distribution?

Leaflets are one of the most popular and effective forms of marketing. They act as an alternative to digital marketing which can become increasingly saturated with messages, but with leaflets, you have the ability to get your message directly in front of your ideal customers and when done correctly produce a fantastic return on investment.

To achieve this, it is important to have a strategy for how you will deliver flyers and ensure that it is legal. But first, let us be clear about what it means to distribute flyers.

Flyer distribution is the practice of circulating marketing messages on paper that you then ensure gets into the hands of your end prospect. They can be distributed via many different methods

  • Hand-to-hand flyer distribution
  • Door-to-door flyer distribution
  • Direct mail

The leaflet or flyer information will ultimately encourage the end prospect to purchase an item, either directly or to interact with other assets that will drive a sale, for example, a website.

How long the document is and the information it will contain will be bespoke to your business and should rely on messaging that makes your business stand out and talks directly to the prospect's pains and desires.

Do I Need Permission?

Whether you are ready to start handing out flyers yourself or planning to find an agency to do that for you, you will probably be asking yourself what the legal implications are or at least how to pass out flyers legally. So before we start looking at creative ways to distribute flyers or how to hand out flyers effectively, let’s review the important legal stuff.

How To Distribute Flyers Legally


distributing flyers

The most important thing to remember when distributing flyers is that doing it legally will depend on how you decide to distribute them. Each method, which we will discuss below, will mean a different set of rules that need to be followed. 

As a general rule, when handing out flyers in public areas, either by hand or placing them on cars, will require some form of permission. When they are distributed within businesses or through a letter box, fewer legal requirements exist. This is in a large part down to local authorities trying to restrict the amount of litter caused by leaflet drops.

For example, in the UK, the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act, introduced in 2005, made it a requirement for people distributing leaflets by hand in the street to get permission and the same exists for placing them on cars. This was all to reduce litter.

Meanwhile, in the US, to control commercial leafleting, many areas have introduced bills forcing you to get a licence for what they call ‘handbill distribution’.

Where permission needs to be gained with either a local authority or private business, this shouldn’t put you off from leaflet distribution as it is never a complicated process. For example, in the UK you can quickly go onto the government website and can type in a postcode and see what permissions you need to gather or in the US you just apply to the local authority.

If you are concerned about following local rules on leaflet distribution, it makes sense to engage a leaflet distribution company as they will be more aware of the local requirements. Later in this article, we will give you a guide on how to find the right leaflet distribution company for you.

Incurring Fees

One element you might need to think about alongside licences is any additional costs you might incur, where failing to pay them will leave you exposed legally. Chief amongst those is if you decide to distribute leaflets at an event, where it is likely that the organisers will charge you a fee to distribute. Some businesses will also charge you to distribute leaflets in their buildings.

How To Distribute Legally - Door to Door

flyers door to door


Let us start with one of the most popular, and simplest, ways of delivering flyers, which is going door to door and placing them through letterboxes. It is as simple as that, you either walk around yourself, pay an individual to do it for you or hire a business. The DMA claims that 60.5% of households would read a leaflet if posted through the letterbox.

One of the great advantages of this method is the lack of formal regulation involved in the distribution. You won’t be addressing the leaflets to individuals, therefore the distribution won’t be governed by the mail preference service, in fact, you don’t have to do anything at all other than walk around and post the leaflets.

The one thing you should be aware of is notices that some households will put up at the front of their property. These will say that they do not want flyers through their letterbox, effectively revoking your right to post them. 

Whilst it is unlikely that these notices would hold up in a court of law, the very fact that they have been issued should be warning enough to respect their request. If nothing else, the people of that household will never take notice of the leaflet and might well completely reject the business in question and not use its services in the future.

One final form of ‘door-to-door leaflet dropping that you won’t need any legal permission for, is distributing them through the local press. You will save the time or cost of getting someone to distribute the leaflets, but you will need to pay the local press, so you should experiment when deciding if this method is worth the additional cost.

How To Distribute Legally - Hand to Hand

post flyers legally


Another relatively simple method, handing out flyers directly to people, can be very effective but is legally different to door-to-door distribution.

If you are looking at how to distribute flyers legally using the hand-to-hand method, then you will need to consider the rules a lot more carefully than door-to-door. Different local authorities will have rules on exactly what permissions you will need to gain but as a general guide, you will need to gain permission from the local authority.

For example, if you are planning to hand out flyers on the street or somewhere like the local park, then it will be the local authorities that you must contact and fill out the appropriate forms. This is often why businesses will go to a specialist flyer distribution business because they will understand the permissions needed and complete all the details for you.

If you are planning on distributing on private property, then you’ll also need to seek out the permission of the person whose land that is. For example, if you were planning on handing out flyers in the car park of the supermarket then you’d need the permission of the owners to do that.

It’s important to note when contacting these private property owners that although they might seem happy with a verbal agreement, it is usually better to give them a written agreement to sign, so you are covered if anyone changes their mind.

The safest option would be handing them out on your own private property, although this will probably restrict the number of people you can reach.

Wherever you attempt to distribute your leaflets by hand, assuming you have got the correct permissions, then there is one other very important factor to remember, which is how you hand out the leaflets and avoid being too aggressive with people.

It is ok to engage an individual when you see them and start a conversation whilst trying to hand them a flyer. However, if that individual does not want to take the flyer from you, then you have to respect that and not try and force the flyer onto them. To be aggressive in the attempts would be considered harassment and could involve the person taking action against you.

How to distribute legally - Direct Mail

people's mailboxes

One final option is using national postal services to deliver your leaflets for you. For example, in the UK this will be delivered by Royal Mail. 

You can go directly to these postal services and this will be more cost-effective but that will put a lot of extra work on yourself to organise everything from campaign planning through to printing. However, it is also possible to use a distribution business in the same way you would for a normal door-to-door campaign.

They will liaise with the postal service and manage things end to end. Legally, this is the safest option of the three in this article. The postal service is fully compliant (in many countries they set the rules!), so when combined with a distribution service, you can be confident that any local permits required will already be covered for you.

The great advantage to delivering with postal srvices is they drop your leaflet at the same time as other post, meaning you know households will pick up the mail and look at what has been delivered. With normal door-to-door drops, some houses will get leaflets at odd times and just discard them as not part of the mail delivery.

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Leaflet distribution companies and the law

One of the best ways of being confident that you are abiding by all the relevant laws is to use a leaflet distribution company. They will be aware of all the local laws and permits that you need to gather for the different types of leaflet distributions.

If you decide to go this route, then you must check the company you choose is very conscious of permits and adhering to all the local guidelines. This is one of many things you should do when vetting a business…

How do I choose the right leaflet distribution company?

If you decide the right approach for you is to use a professional company to organise your leaflet distribution, then you need to consider how you’ll select them.


As with picking any service provider, a great place to start is by talking with your network and seeing if anyone you know and trust has used a company previously. A personal recommendation is always a strong indicator that a company is good and you can quiz your connection on details that are important to your circumstances.

If you don’t have any recommendations or are looking for comparison businesses to be sure you have the right one, then your starting point will likely be googling leaflet distribution companies and the area you are looking to distribute them. However, this will throw up A LOT of options. 

Leaflet distribution is popular, so a lot of businesses exist to fulfil this need, meaning you will need to consider the following when sorting through the options you find

Volume

You’ll need to understand what volumes you are looking to distribute and then understand if the leaflet business can fulfil this. You might also find that some of the bigger distribution companies are a lot more expensive for small volumes because they don’t like to do them.

A business might also be able to offer advice on the volume you should be distributing, so if you are new to handing out leaflets, finding a helpful partner like this will be a bonus.

Size

Similar to the question about volume, you’ll want to understand what size leaflets the business can accommodate. Traditionally A5 is the popular choice and all distribution businesses will offer that, but if you are looking to produce your leaflet in a different size, it’s important to learn if the business can handle that request.

Once again, it would be good to understand if the business can advise on this if you are new and help you decide what size leaflet will be best with the goal of your campaign.

Process & Procedures

When you are investigating these businesses, pay close attention to what processes they have in place. You’ll want to understand a couple of key factors

  • Do they make sure they have the relevant permissions to deliver your leaflets in whatever format you have selected
  • What process is in place to spot check their staff are delivering the leaflets as promised? The biggest concern anyone will have is that the leaflets are just dumped in a bin or trashed in some way

Collection

If you are producing the leaflets yourself, then you’ll want to understand if the distribution business is going to collect these leaflets from you or if you’ll be expected to go and deliver them to the distribution company. Depending on your circumstances this will make a big difference to your selection.

Reviews

It is so much easier nowadays to learn what others think about a business. Start by looking at their website and see what testimonials they are willing to put forward. If you cannot find any, that is not a good sign.

Don’t just rely on what the company includes, look at review sites. Start with Google My Business where a local business like this is bound to be registered and see what people are saying on there. Check out other review sites, which you can normally find by typing in the company name and the phrase ‘reviews’.

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Social Media

Similar to reviews, you have the ability to look at the social media accounts of the business you are looking to use and find out what people say about it. Look for the comments left on Facebook or see if people reply to their tweets with negative comments. These are great techniques for spotting businesses with bad practices.

Connections

If part of your strategy is delivering leaflets into local businesses then finding a distribution partner that has relationships with other local businesses will be a massive plus for your strategy. 

In many ways this is the most effective way to distribute flyers - you find a partner that can create and deliver the flyers, putting them directly into businesses that have customers relevant to your proposition.

Cost

You’ll want to understand how much the work is going to cost you and what you get for that cost. Be careful to check for hidden costs like collection or how it scales with pricing. 

For example, you might be quoted a cost per delivery that only comes into effect when your volume is over a certain level. If you only need a small amount delivered you might suddenly realise (too late) that your invoice is more than expected.

A hassle free, safe and effective form of marketing

Leaflet distribution can still be a very effective form of marketing even in the digital age, it can help you stand out and grab the attention of a local audience, but you need to pay close attention to the laws.

Any time you wish to distribute directly to people then you will likely need to gain permission but this is not a complex process and you should not let it put you off. Quickly reviewing the local guidance online will give you all the information you need.

However, the safest and most effective way of doing leaflet distribution is to select a good local business that will do this for you. They will already be aware of all legal requirements and complete the job without you needing to get involved. Safe and hassle free.

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