World — 17 September 2012

By George Lizama, Special to American News Report

With the November elections fast approaching, it’s going take a very strategic production manager to navigate through these next two months of email and direct mail implementation “hell”.

It’s going to be hell because of an already strained concentration of digital, printing and mailing suppliers, pushing through an already strained U.S. Postal system, which will be competing against an already strained and frantic group of political campaigns, committees, and union suppliers to get not just the word out… but the vote!

Most people don’t know that when it comes to direct mail and email marketing — particularly during a presidential election year — fundraisers, marketers,  public relations firms,  advertising agencies,    unions,  associations,  PACS… the list goes on…  get into the fray, trying to get their person elected.

Printers, mailers, and digital firms have their steady, institutional clients, but are met early in the summer with a crush of newbies wanting to get the word out.

Newbies are not only unskilled in the logistics of printing, mailing and email marketing; they’re also unskilled in taking a database and selecting, formatting, cleaning and preparing an address file for postal presorting.

For many of these marketing and public relations firms, it’s a “learn by mistakes” method or a “blame the supplier” tactic.

In this crush, the lettershops — the suppliers who configure the mail, insert, seal, meter or stamp, bag, tie and deliver to the postal stream — are the most affected.

They are literally dams waiting to crack and then eventually to burst.  And burst they do; those last two to three “first class” days ahead of election day.

I can remember mailers of mine, delirious from having not slept for days, finding in the carnage on the main lettershop floor a postal pallet or two of “get out the vote” mail and frantically mailing them the day after the election and still invoicing for it!  Really?!

I remember mailers calling me in the wee hours of the morning, desperate for advice on what to do with several thousands of pieces of mail — having run out of the last page of the letter. My response was mail it!

This period is also when you will see more than you have ever seen on your invoices… “miscellaneous charges”,    “overtime”,   “cost to recover”,   “cost to restock”,   “union bug”, “additional trucking” and more.  And you know, they get paid. Quickly!

I’m just sayin’…

For my staff, this September and October direct mail and email marketing is really an obstacle course to applying extraordinary vigilance, of planning for the unplanned and tight knit, assertive supplier tracking.

Unfortunately, during this period in production, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Those of us not organized will pay the price and it will be costly.

It will take a pro-active production staff to ensure that reactive suppliers understand that our institutional clients — whether they be commercial, association or nonprofit — have no less priority then our political clients, the PACS, or our advocacy clients.

And, most importantly, we must see that our institutional clients continue to get first class quality service and a fair price.

I’m voting this year as always.  I’m working extra hours integrating the political work and advocacy work, because as a businessman it’s seasonal but solid new revenue.

And for very different reasons from most people…I can’t wait for November 8th to get here!

George Lizama

Editor’s Note: George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, is a recognized leader in the fundraising industry. Lizama is the former president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington and recipient of its Distinguished Achievement Award. He received the Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership in 2008, in part to recognize his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service, of which he is a director. His blog is called Production Interrupted.

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George Lizama, Guest Columnist

(1) Reader Comment

  1. What strained postal system? All I keep hearing about is dropping volumes causing unused capacity. Which is it? Are we strained or underutilized? Can’t have it both ways.