USPS sales staff ordered to stop slating newspaper ads

Sales staff trying to encourage American businesses to make more use of the mail for their local advertising have run into trouble with a major postal customer group. US Postal Service employees promoting the merits of saturation mail compared to other marketing channels have been accused of “trashing” the effectiveness of newspaper advertising in their pursuit of business mail volumes.

But while they might be competing for the same advertising dollar, US newspapers are also major customers of the USPS in their own right.

After a spate of complaints from newspapers, the Postal Service has now been forced to order its salespeople to “back off” from their critical comments in touting the new USPS simplified address service, Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) – pointing out that if the newspapers lose advertising income, the USPS will lose newspaper volumes.

The National Newspaper Association, a trade group for local newspapers in the US, said its intervention on behalf of members led to the new directive issued by USPS this week.

Max Heath, the Association’s postal committee chair, said postal employees are now being directed to state that direct mail is “an option that can be blended or used in addition to other media resources”.

The USPS directive stated furthermore that “it is not our intent to position EDDM ‘against’ other media choices”, and reminds staff that newspapers and printers “are our friends and partners”.

(Updated August 30) A spokesperson for USPS confirmed to Post&Parcel that a message had been sent to its sales group to “modify the way we discuss positioning EDDM”, but did not comment further on the issue.

New business

The EDDM service allows US businesses to mail to all homes on a given local route or group of routes without having to obtain specific addresses for those homes.

Heath said the service was about creating new business, not diverting business from one type of mail to another.

“Our concern had been that the way this program is presented seemed to urge a migration out of newspapers’ periodicals and standard mail issues, into a direct advertising stream – that was not our understanding of this program,” said the NNA postal committee chair.

“Now we are glad to know that USPS headquarters is trying to keep the program on track.”

USPS has already had to tell its sales staff this summer to avoid selling to companies that were already using the mail for advertising through other USPS services or partner-run services.

Executives insisted last week that 98% of small businesses using EDDM do represent new business.

Heath said newspapers have been able to use EDDM themselves to send out samples and other advertising, though have to be careful not to jeopardise their existing bulk mail rates by sending out too many samples.

A spokesperson for USPS was not able to comment on the issue this afternoon.

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