Soldiers get some holiday cheer

While anyone can send mail directly to a specific member in the US military, cards addressed to "any soldier" cannot be delivered for security issues.

While anyone can send mail directly to a specific member in the US military, cards addressed to “any soldier” cannot be delivered for security issues.

Recognizing the need to help Americans spread much-needed joy to service members, their families, and veterans during the holidays, Pitney Bowes and the American Red Cross collaborated on the “Holiday Mail for Heroes” campaign.

The effort set a goal of collecting 1 million holiday greeting cards and sending them to members of the US Military, their families, and veterans worldwide, says Matt Broder, VP of external communications at Pitney Bowes. The team also placed secondary goals to increase visibility of Pitney Bowes' mail screening solutions for government entities and the military, while also raising awareness of the American Red Cross' services to the armed forces.

The teams wanted to garner the most attention possible, so they set up a kick off on Veteran's Day, card-sorting events in 17 markets, and created a message that would tug at Americans' emotions.

“Our approach was to use as many channels as possible to develop... understanding, appreciation, and participation,” Broder says.

The team held a press event on Veteran's Day in DC and sent out a press release that same day. To build the effort online, it reached out to bloggers, created a landing page on Red Cross' site with videos and cards available to print out, sent a viral video to nine aggregators, and created Twitter and Flickr pages. The team also posted stories and information on the organizations' intranet and scored endorsement from former first lady Laura Bush (pictured), who joined a card-sorting event in Washington, DC.

Pitney Bowes received more than 1.4 million holiday cards for service men and women, their families, and veterans at more than 300 military bases and hospitals, veteran's hospitals, and other locations.

Pitney Bowes and Red Cross garnered coverage in 807 articles. Additionally, online blitz netted the campaign page more than 240,000 views, while the viral video received 200,000 views on the landing page and 3,000 views on other channels.

“For the amount of money spent... this campaign delivered a remarkable return on investment, including a heavy social media return,” says Laura Howe, senior director of public affairs at the Red Cross.

“We are very excited about the future of ‘Holiday Mail for Heroes,' and look forward to bringing it back for the holidays in 2009,” Broder says.

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This campaign allowed for Pitney Bowes to promote its mail screening expertise, and the American Red Cross to tout its military support services, in a way that was both sincere and effective.

While there might be some disagreement regarding the politics of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, there still remains unwavering support for our troops overseas. By providing a conduit to help Americans reach soldiers overseas and veterans here in the states, this campaign was not only an easy pitch, but also particularly attractive for media coverage during the giving holiday season.

PR team: Pitney Bowes (Stamford, CT), The American Red Cross (Washington, DC), CJP Communications (Stratford, CT), and Zeta Interactive (New York)

Campaign: Holiday Mail for Heroes

Duration: November 11, 2008-January 8, 2009

Budget: $34,000

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