A collaboration between direct marketers and public relations
specialists will reap benefits for both parties, says Colin Lloyd.
In one of Bernard Ingham’s recent columns, he asks if junk mail is
compatible with PR. The simple answer is no. But if the question is
whether direct mail is compatible with PR the answer, most definitely is
Direct mail and the direct marketing industry generally, has enjoyed
phenomenal growth in recent years. The direct marketing industry is now
worth some pounds 5.5 billion, of which direct mail accounts for pounds
Direct marketing, like PR, is about building relationships. In recent
years, political parties have turned to direct marketing to build
relations with the electorate. In the past few weeks we have seen the
Tories launch a major direct marketing campaign targeted at people who
own shares in privatised industries and the Labour Party has employed a
direct marketing agency.
Well executed direct marketing campaigns are an excellent way of
building relations with consumers. Information from Virgin Direct
suggests that editorial coverage in the same issue as a direct response
advertisement can double the expected response. However, poor direct
marketing can damage relations.
The DMA has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of promoting
best practice in direct marketing. By adhering to best practice,
companies can avoid the PR pitfalls that poor direct marketing can
create. For instance the DMA is currently lobbying Parliament to allow
for the creation of a deceased file, which will prevent direct mail
being sent to people who have died.
The drop in complaints to the DMA, the Advertising Standards Authority
(ASA) and Data Protection Registrar shows that direct marketers are
doing a better job at targeting and executing direct marketing. But
there is still room for improvement and the DMA will continue to work
hard to improve standards.
Direct marketers can and should take advice from PR specialists when
planning a campaign. Consumers create a perception of a company from all
their contact with it - including press coverage of the company, the
actual product and its packaging. How a product or service is marketed
is just one element that influences a consumer’s opinion of a company
but it is vital to get it right.
PR specialists can help direct marketers to consider a campaign’s impact
on all those at the receiving end - not just those who buy as a result
of the direct marketing. A company that mails an inappropriate offer
could permanently damage a relationship with a customer or potential
Used together, PR and direct marketing can offer a formidable way of
communicating with consumers and businesses. PR specialists can help
direct marketers avoid pitfalls by providing a wider perspective. Direct
marketing can help PR by offering opportunities for building one-to-one
Companies are missing out on an essential part of their marketing
armoury if they do not use direct marketing. PR professionals should be
involved in the planning stages of a direct marketing campaign - not at
the end when they are trying to pick up the pieces of a poor
So, returning to Sir Bernard’s original question, yes junk mail is
incompatible with PR but well targeted and executed direct marketing
campaigns should go hand-in-hand. Good direct marketing is good PR.