Best Practices: Casting a Wider Net
When 45 people showed up on the corner of Meridian and Elmhurst, John D.L. Johnson knew his idea was a winner.
As manager of the Graphics Division of Palm Beach County government’s Public Affairs Department, Johnson says part of his job is finding ways to communicate effectively with his community. So when the Office of Community Revitalization asked his Greenacres, Fla., in-plant to print 400 flyers to be distributed by deputies, asking residents to attend a community meeting, Johnson knew there had to be a better way.
This was in May of 2012, and he had recently heard about a new service from the U.S. Postal Service called Every Door Direct Mail, created to let small businesses target a specific area and have a mailing delivered to every residence within that boundary.
The original plan was for the nine-employee in-plant to print 400 flyers, to be hand delivered by deputies. After a quick search on the Every Door Direct Mail website, Johnson discovered there were exactly 1,116 residences in this neighborhood. For $171.86 in postage, a flyer could be delivered to each mailbox. While the additional copies and postage fee would increase the cost of the job, saving the Community Revitalization department the time and manpower would essentially even it out.
“If you had a few deputies going out and spending an afternoon...dropping off flyers, it would have cost a couple hundred dollars of staff time,” Johnson notes.
So he confidently pitched his idea to Community Revitalization, describing the program in depth through emails with the other department head. For a low price, he explained, everyone on the target list would receive a flyer. And because the flyers would be actual mail affixed with the county’s seal, this additional element of legitimacy would increase the rate at which they were opened and read.
All it took was a short email back from the department giving Johnson the green light, and he and his team went to work. The in-plant printed 1,116 flyers and had them in the mail that afternoon. When the meeting rolled around, 45 people—approximately four percent of the neighborhood—showed up.
Since that first successful mailing, Johnson says he’s now done 17 more for the same department. Other departments have also caught on, including the Environmental Resource Management Department and Parks Department, which have found Every Door Direct Mail to be a successful way of notifying nearby residents of controlled burns in the area.
Now, with even more departments inquiring about the service, Johnson says getting Every Door Direct Mail on the county government’s radar has helped his in-plant become an even more vital part of the organization.
“Being an in-plant shop, we are in a good position of identifying departments out there that have that kind of a need,” he explains. “When we help a department come up with a way to communicate with the citizens, it’s a real win for everybody here.”
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