“Timing is everything,” the saying goes. And while it can be an important factor in some direct mail campaigns, it’s a crucial one in political direct mail.
Although parties and potential candidates are always fundraising with mail, that’s an activity directed at core supporters. Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) mail, though, really only becomes valuable when it’s deployed in the last few weeks before an election.
Here are some important political mail timing issues to keep in mind as you plan and run a powerful political campaign.
1. Watch Your Deadlines
Base supporters may be energized by an approaching election, but most voters don’t become involved until fairly late in the game. To avoid wasting money, and to also present a freshly-tuned message, mail no earlier than 90 days before an election.
Pay attention to all voter registration deadlines and requirements. People who have moved or been purged from voting rolls may be receptive to your candidate or message.
By the way, “election day” can be a misnomer. Some states allow early voting, either in-person or by mail, starting a few weeks before the official election day. And, because absentee and military ballots sometimes make a big difference in vote totals, you’ll want to know when those votes are due as well – and plan accordingly.
2. Know Your Drop Dates
The most important date to put in your calendar is each campaign’s drop date, that is, when it physically arrives at a USPS facility from your print provider. Barring a major hiccup, you can expect that the campaign will arrive in voter mailboxes within 2-5 days of the drop date.
By looking at Intelligent Mail barcode tracking data, you’ll know when your mail was delivered, and can then coordinate those efforts with other campaign activities, like live events, TV ad buys, and more.
3. Use USPS Tag 57
Affixing a red tag to a bulk campaign’s trays, bags, or pallets identifies the mail piece as a political campaign mailing. Candidates, their committees, and political parties are entitled to this special designation, as well as other groups like PACs, corporations, and non-profits. The tags can be attached by the printing company or supplied by the local USPS bulk mail center for the campaign’s in-house team to apply to the lot.
Now, in the last crucial days before an election, a political mailing is not one that the postal service wants sitting around undelivered. But be careful. Tag 57 is only intended to make the mailing more visible to USPS personnel as it is processed, not guarantee faster delivery.
Ideas to Use
- USPS Tag 57 can only be used for campaign-related bulk mailings, not any other political outreach.
- Give your political mail extra visibility by using USPS Informed Delivery to reinforce your message and drive voters to your website.
- Some states allow same-day registration, so informing potential voters about this may make a difference in a close election.
Ideas to Use
- Look at your campaign’s Intelligent Mail barcode data to see how your mailings are progressing through the postal delivery system, then synchronize them with other campaign efforts, like local TV spots and door-to-door canvassing.
- Because 40 million Americans move every year, mailings lists should be run against the National Change of Address (NCOA) database to verify their accuracy.
- With Variable Data Printing (VDP), leverage information you have on some of your voters to provide directions to their polling place, updates on specific issues, and more.
A strong relationship with USPS -such as a nearby Business Mail Entry Unit or an in-house verification – will go a long way in preventing any headaches because of design or mailing questions.
- Using or adding an envelope converting or printing capability rather than outsourcing will likely shave several days from the timeline of your print job and get it to USPS mail delivery time faster.
- Review USPS regional performance reports each quarter, and raise any issues with local officials as well as Postal Customer Council (PCC) representatives.