Not the Whole Truth
Have you ever noticed how slanted the reporting on direct mail can be in the general media? Sometimes it's a bias that panders to an easy targete.g., people don't like junk mail or telemarketing phone callsand other times the coverage reflects the paper's personal stancee.g., direct mail is taking away their ad dollars and thus their budgets. When it comes to small news operations, however, I think the issue boils down to reporters not knowing enough about direct marketing to cover it accurately.
Case in point: a Dec. 6 article from The Kansas City Star, sent to me by copywriter/consultant Pat Friesen. One glance at the headline, "Junk mail less effective," and you might think direct mail is in trouble. The reality is that a reporter (not named because this is a staff-written piece that is to be used as filler across the parent firm's newspaper network) combined highlights from an article in The Economist with
a Direct Marketing Association study on average response rates. The problem with this approach is that the message in the news item is that single-shot mailings are less effective than they used to be because there is too much mailbox clutter. Over-mailing might be one reason, but no evidence supports this summation as the main culprit. For one, response ratesas you and I knowcan be as individual as snowflakes; an average is no prediction of failure. Two, companies are having difficulty tracking sales in online and retail channels back to direct mail efforts that might have contributed to this response. Thus, the returns from single-shots might not look so great for the wrong reason.
Friesen certainly was annoyed after reading this Kansas City Star piece; the suggestion to readers of this papersome of whom are or could be her clientsis that direct mail might not be a good marketing investment anymore. Heck, the lead goes so far as to say "your daily stack of junk mail may get smaller in the future."
It's this kind of slap-dash coverage that makes me put "direct marketing news reporting by the general press" on par with their "junk mail" reference.