Why junk mail and good PR do not always go hand in hand

As one who (sparingly) uses a mobile phone in public places - I would be handicapped without one - I irritate nearly one in three people.

As one who (sparingly) uses a mobile phone in public places - I

would be handicapped without one - I irritate nearly one in three


Indeed, 29 per cent of those polled by NOP said this was one of their

three pet hates. Their hostility was not entirely spontaneous. They were

asked to name three items from a list of 12.

Still, it is useful to know what gives some people the screaming


It is even more helpful to know what drives most people up the wall.

They call it junk mail. Virtually two-thirds of those polled told NOP

that it has them grinding their teeth. And, according to the Sunday

Times, a survey earlier this month of a London street showed that 87 per

cent of junk mail goes straight into the waste paper basket.

So why has the direct mail business grown by 150 per cent in ten


What is the point of pestering the average household with at least two

junk mailings a week and businesses with 15? Well, if the NOP is to be

believed, 35 per cent of us don’t get worked up about them and 13 per

cent of us don’t bin them immediately. Whether these calm customers look

at them is less than clear. But, given that there are about three

billion direct mail shots a year, well over a billion go to reasonably

receptive folk and 390 million of us don’t just chuck them away. On any

definition, this is a mass market. Direct mailing is evidently

considered to be an effective and profitable way of tapping it.

But, are those who use direct mail looking at all the costs? It’s the

same question I ask so-called ’greens’ when they go into raptures about

wind farms only to discover that most of them are aesthetically dead

from the neck upwards.

I would not lay that charge against the average business. But is there,

for example, a potential public relations cost in using direct mail?

Well, even before I knew that junk mail offends the majority of people,

I would have counselled those canvassing support for any body remotely

linked with the environment to avoid direct mail like the plague. They

are just asking to be shot at for helping ’to denude the world’s

forests’. And would it make you feel better if they used recycled


If you search with a magnifying glass through your daily, you will

discover a line which says that recycled paper made up 41.2 per cent of

the raw material for UK newspapers in the first half of last year. Does

that make you feel better about the pounds - half a stone on Sundays -

of supplements you weed out and cast aside?

In short, is junk mail compatible with public relations? I only asked.

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