Platform: The direct route to a productive relationship

A collaboration between direct marketers and public relations specialists will reap benefits for both parties, says Colin Lloyd.

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

1.1 billion.

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.

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