Mail guidelines

General guidelines for reducing outgoing mail volumes and costs

Background

The Washington State Auditor’s Office conducted a performance audit in the fall of 2011 to identify strategies state agencies could use to reduce what they mail and save money without sacrificing regular, clear communication. The Department of Enterprise Services has developed the following guidelines to help all state agencies evaluate opportunities to reduce outgoing mail volumes and costs. Included in the guidelines are alternatives to mailing and examples of what agencies should consider when mailing in order to reduce associated costs.

The state of Washington uses various methods to distribute information to customers, constituents, clients, vendors, and the general public. These methods include email, telecommunications, websites, social media and mail. All methods have an associated cost. The best method of communicating information achieves the desired result at the lowest cost.

The following guidelines are intended to help agencies identify the most efficient ways to reach their audiences.

Leading and Best Practices

  • Post information on agency websites.
  • Establish electronic account with businesses and clients.
  • Use email for notifications and communication.
  • Use electronic transfer, direct deposit, and electronic benefit cards for payment of benefits.
  • Combine mailings going to the same address.
  • Mail information less often.
  • Presort mail for lower postage costs.
  • Reduce mailing class to reduce postage rates.

Considerations for determining the best distribution method

  • Are there laws requiring a specific distribution method?
  • Who is the audience/recipient?
  • What types of communications are the recipients capable of receiving?
  • Do you need proof the intended recipient received the communication and how long must proof be maintained?
  • What type of distribution list exists for the audience/recipients?
  • Is there an established website?
  • Is a response requested/required?
  • How will a response be received and managed?
  • What resources are available to manage the communication method?
  • How will confidentiality be maintained, if needed?

The following are potential distribution methods, considerations, and examples of how they are used.

News media – Radio, Television and News Publications

  • How do you use it: Work with your agency’s Communications staff.
  • Examples: Washington’s Lottery; The Department of Labor and Industries fraud prevention campaign

Social Media

Web

  • Is there an established website?
    • If yes –Work with your agency’s Technology and Communications Staff.
  • Are resources available for managing the website and data?
  • Examples: Department of Licensing license and vehicle renewals; WSDOT Good to Go!; Department of Retirement Systems annual statements.

Email

  • How will the email addresses be obtained and refreshed?
  • Examples: Opting-in online or Business Reply Mail.
  • What action needs to be taken if the email is undeliverable?
  • Do you need proof the email was opened?
  • Will the email have links?
  • Is there an attachment? If so, what size?
  • Examples: WSDOT Good to Go!

Phone/Fax

  • How will the list of phone/fax numbers be obtained and refreshed?
  • Do you have the resources to make the phone or fax calls and manage the system?

Mail

  • How will the mailing list be obtained and refreshed?
  • Will you perform address verification before printing?
  • Do you need proof of mailing?
  • Will you need the mail pieces tracked? To what level?
  • Is a delivery signature required by law?
  • Who will prepare the material and what are their requirements?
  • Are there opportunities to combine mailings?
  • Can you reformat the material to reduce postage?
  • Examples: Washington State Parks insert included in a Department of Licensing mailing, eliminating a second mailing; The Department of Labor and Industries reformatted two letters to one postcard.

Consult with communications staff to determine the most effective methods of reaching the intended audience. If it is determined you must mail, there are a variety of ways to reduce the cost.

Strategies to reduce the cost of mailing

  • Use Presort services in accordance with best practices.
  • Convert flats to letters for reduced postage; also a best practice.
  • Standardize your letters and forms to use state standard envelopes.
  • Validate, correct, and standardize your mailing address lists to avoid delivery problems and resending.
  • Receive Return Receipts electronically (ERR) instead of by mail.
  • Allow enough lead time for mailings to potentially reduce postage or shipping costs.
  • Consult with Consolidated Mail Services to ascertain if USPS discount mail promotions are available or how to make the mailing automation compatible.

Mail Consultation Services

To assist agencies in reducing the cost of mailings, the Department of Enterprise Services has staff available to consult with your agency. Contact Consolidated Mail Services Customer Service at (360) 664-9507.