Dealing With The Direct Mail vs. Anthrax Paradox

By Pragmatic Institute April 27, 2007

Pragmatic Institute, Inc.

Several of our seminar attendees have asked us what they should do about their direct mail programs while the threat of Anthrax is on everyone's mind. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has just published guidelines to its membership, and I thought you would find it helpful to have this information (see below).

The central theme of the DMA communication is that you must make it easy for your recipient to verify the validity and safety of your mailing. If you use a self-mailer, you will automatically eliminate any concerns. For mailings sent with traditional envelopes or packaging, you should boldly identify your company with your logo, company name and URL. Now, more than ever, you will want your mail to have a high-quality, corporate feel that is above suspicion. The days of hand-written, personalized mailings are gone—perhaps forever.

DMA's Suggestions to Address Security Issues in Direct Mail Campaigns

Preserving the integrity of the $528 billion direct mail sector of the U.S. economy is one way we can respond to the President's call to continue to work and live undaunted by the threat of terrorism. In response to inquiries from member companies, consumers and the press regarding direct mail as a possible vehicle for distributing anthrax or other agents of bio-terrorism, the DMA suggests the following guidelines to promote security and integrity in the direct mail business, and to ensure consumers of the safety of professional direct mail campaigns.

  1. Avoid using plain envelopes. Printed envelopes, especially those using color, are less likely to appear like the hand-prepared envelopes involved in the incidents so far.
  2. Use a clear and identifiable return address. Consider including your company logo in the address.
  3. Consider including a toll-free phone number and/or URL address on envelopes.
  4. Utilize an e-mail and/or telemarketing campaign in conjunction with a letter drop to notify consumers that mail will be coming.
  5. Consider temporarily delaying business-to-business mailings because of potential logjams in receiving mailrooms.
  6. Utilize the DMA member logo to demonstrate your company's credibility.
  7. Contact your letter shop and other production services to stress the importance of security.
  8. Consider performing a security audit throughout your operation.
  9. Evaluate your campaign approach and consider that personalization is temporarily less likely to increase response rates.
  10. If you are involved in production services, know your customers.
  11. Reinforce your existing internal guidelines about forwarding press and consumer calls to appropriate internal channels.
  12. Educate mailroom employees about identifying and dealing with possible threats.
  13. Utilize the DMA as a press resource. Feel free to forward press calls to 212-768-7277.
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