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Direct Mail v Junk Mail: The NHS Care Data Project

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You may have heard a couple of months ago about the controversy with the NHS’s Care Data project.

We were intrigued to read about it, not just from the point of view of how secure our own personal information will be once the project is live, but from the approach the NHS took to informing the likes of you and me about the project, what it means for us as individuals and how, should we want to be, we could be removed from the project.

It is a fantastic case study, which we think highlights brilliantly the difference between DIRECT MAIL and JUNK MAIL.  Direct mail being personally addressed mail and junk mail being unaddressed leaflets shoved through your door by a skateboarder wearing a hoodie!!

We’re not here to get into the ins and outs of the technology around the project or the issues around patient confidentiality.  The issue we are interested in, is how the NHS chose to tell the great British public about the project and what they hoped to achieve.

So here’s what happened. Instead of taking the time to explain the project fully in a personal way (ie using personally addressed direct mail) to the public, supported by a public information campaign, the NHS took a rather “under the radar” approach of informing people by simply doing a leaflet drop (ie distributing what we call junk mail) to every household.  The problem with this approach was that a poll undertaken by the BBC established that two thirds of the population had never seen the leaflet and in many instances it was delivered tucked inside pizza menus and other pieces of junk mail.  Not a great idea if you want the recipient to actually read it!

So….it remains to be seen what happens next.  Now we’re not saying direct mail would have had a 100% hit rate.  But what we are saying is that if you have something important to communicate with your clients and you want to dramatically increase the chances of them reading what you have to say and taking action, direct mail will trump junk mail every time.

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