Political Mail – Still Making an Impact

Election Day is right around the corner. Like millions of Americans, I took advantage of my state’s push to receive a ballot in the mail. Instead of mailing it back, I deposited it in a drop box at the town hall. Not because I do not trust the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), but because the town hall is on the walk to the post office.

However, political campaigns do not know who has already voted. So, my friendly letter carrier continues to fill my mailbox with postcards and letters from candidates and interest groups. While previous mailings included requests for donations, the current pieces have one consistent message – vote!

Back in April, I shared information on the USPS programs to educate political campaigns about direct mail. Savvy marketers developed omnichannel campaigns, using traditional media, social media, phone banks, text messages and postal mail. Spending on direct mail in campaigns rose 131% percent from $49 million in January through March of 2016 to $113 million during the same period in 2020.

During the summer, the USPS experienced significant service issues. That brought unwanted attention from the press and Congress. The Postmaster General was called to testify before both House and Senate Committees to address the problems and what was being done to resolve them. Then there were several lawsuits, due to the potential impact on election mail.

Even with these issues, political mail volumes continued to grow. For Fiscal Year 2020 (October 2019 – September 2020), there were 1.9 billion pieces of political mail, as compared to 1.1 billion pieces in Fiscal Year 2016. Those numbers will continue to rise – as traditionally, almost half of all political mail is sent during the final four weeks of an election. During the first three weeks of October, the USPS processed 1.4 billion pieces of political mail (Source: Industry Phone Call with USPS Headquarters, October 23, 2020).

The final counts for political mail pieces will not be available until after the election. Whatever number the USPS publishes will be lower than the actual volumes. That is because too many service providers are not using the correct Service Type Identifiers (STIDs). This improperly prepared political mail does not get counted or processed in the same manner.

However, for properly prepared mail, the USPS tracking information shows good news. That good news is now public information, as it was included in documents filed by the USPS in response to the lawsuits.

Each day, USPS facilities are to certify how much election and political mail has been processed. A report for the week of September 19-25, 2020 (Source: Document 68-3 (October 2, 2020) Jones v. United States Postal Service (1:20-cv-06516)), shows that all but one division were above 90% certified. Even better was the reporting for the retail areas, with all four areas at 99.99% or 100%. This demonstrates that not only measuring, but public reporting of measurements, improves performance.

The report also showed a 97.2% processing score for election mail. This is more than 10 points higher than the overall national average on First-Class Mail for that same week. Good news for those concerned about timely delivery of their messages and ballots.

Political mail is still making an impact, even in the final days of the election.

About the Author: Mark Fallon is President & CEO of The Berkshire Company, an independent management consulting firm that specializes in the print-mail industry. For additional information visit www.berkshire-company.com.

Mark Fallon