When PRWeek's parent company, Haymarket Media, acquired DM News a few months ago, we all started to pay a lot more attention to the direct marketing universe. Particularly me, as I have taken on editorial duties with the new publication, in addition to my role at PRWeek.
While it has certainly been an education in direct marketing, it has also been a lesson in how issues that are so critical for one industry may get little hearing in the mainstream media, even when they directly impact consumers in general, or even in other trade media.
The issue that has the DM industry abuzz is the postal rate increase that is due to take effect on May 14, which will raise rates for any non-standard mail pieces by 20% to 40%. At each of the many professional events that are going on right now in the market, the increasing postal rates have been topic number one and the focus of considerable angst.
The majority of mainstream media coverage has centered on the price increases to stamps from 39 cents to 41 cents. But the real story is what's happening on the commercial front, as marketers face hefty increases in mailing, as well as a complex system for pricing that calculates not just the weight, but also the size and shape of the envelope or package.
This is a critical issue not just for direct marketing companies, of course, but also for publishers, non-profits, and anyone else who depends on the mail service for their livelihood. It's not just a matter of paying more money to send, but of having the tools in-house to correctly process deliveries. In addition, marketers will need to explore new creative options to present information in order to avoid incurring extra cost.
A recent survey of online sellers by Auctionbytes.com showed that many of those who do their selling through sites like eBay and Amazon are not prepared for the changes. Catalogers, too, are evaluating their options, their pagination, and their designs.
As a topic for the mainstream business press, however, it's virtually non-existent. It is safe to assume, too, that not too many PR professionals are lying awake at night, worrying about how their marketing brethren will adjust to the changes.
The ignorance of the larger media does not excuse a lack of awareness by communicators. Just because an issue seems isolated to one area of the marketing mix doesn't mean its impact is limited to that sector - and not just because it might cut down the size of, say, CSR and annual reports in the interest of cost savings.
As the broadcast and display advertising market has changed, other marketing disciplines, including DM and PR, play a major role in helping programs meet their full potential. Integrated marketing is about more than just developing programs; it's about finding paths through opportunities and problems together and maximizing the marketing mix at every level.
When one part of the marketing team is facing unprecedented challenges, it is incumbent on PR pros - who are best equipped to comprehend and galvanize action on key issues - to be a part of the solution.