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Mailing List Know-How

Are you neglecting your mailing list and paying too much attention to other, more "hi-tech" means of communications? Even if you only use it once a year to send corporate Season's Greetings, your mailing list can be the cornerstone of a good communications strategy.

Here are a few guidelines to review before your next mailing:

The first decision is whether to use an in-house mailing list or to buy a list from a list broker. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Maintaining in-house mailing lists can be time-consuming. However you may find it well worth the investment - even a small list can be a valuable resource. If you already maintain lists for other purposes and they are appropriate for your mailing don't hesitate to use them. It is vital to ensure accuracy and to do so on an ongoing basis. Every returned letter costs you twice as much postage.

Two major advantages of in-house lists are that they can be used for repeated mailings and can be sold to other organizations. Consider trading lists with other organizations. Trading lists can save a great deal of money and diversify your database, benefitting both parties!

Many organizations buy mailing lists from list brokers. Take the time to ask other people in your field for recommendations and ask the broker for samples. Also try to target your mailing as specifically as possible. A list that is too broad can be a waste of time and money. For list brokers in your area look in The Yellow Pages - under "Mailing Lists & Services." As with everything, it pays to shop around.

The main advantage of buying a list lies in customization. A list broker can supply very specific addresses, have lists sorted to your requirements and provide them in a variety of formats. Some brokers will even research and produce lists specifically for your needs. You can also rely on the accuracy of a good broker's list. Most list brokers update their lists monthly and sometimes weekly. The primary disadvantage of buying a list is the expense. In addition, many brokers will only allow you to use the list once.

Of course, mailings should only be part of your public and media relations strategy. With the right planning, they can be a powerful tool. It's all about keeping your organization first and foremost in the minds of the people you want to reach.

Sources provides media lists and government lists. For more information see