Govt turns to direct mail to get Covid-19 action across

downing st 10The Government is spending £5.8m on a mailshot from Prime Minister Boris Johnson to 30 million UK households, urging people to stay at home to fight the coronavirus, in a move which many direct marketing chiefs believe shows the true power of the medium.

The letter, which is going out this week, will be accompanied by a leaflet outlining steps that the public can take to help stop the spread of Covid-19, including guidance on handwashing, how to self-isolate, and how to help the elderly and vulnerable.

In the missive from Number 10, Johnson calls for national unity, and urges people to stay at home and follow the rules set out by the Government.

He states: “We will not hesitate to go further if that is what the scientific and medical advice tells us we must do. We know things will get worse before they get better. But we are making the right preparations, and the more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal.”

It goes on to thank NHS workers and those who have volunteered to help, but reiterates that people must stay at home for all but the most essential tasks, such as food shopping, exercise, and getting medicine.

“That is why, at this moment of national emergency, I urge you, please, to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” Johnson writes.

The move follows criticism over the clarity of Government advice to date and is part of a wider public health campaign which has included text messages to every UK mobile phone user, in direct contradiction to Mail on Sunday claims that the Information Commissioner’s Office would not permit it. There have also been announcements on TV, social media and radio.

One industry source said: “What this really shows is that if you want to drive a message home there are few better ways than direct mail. Social media and TV messages flash up but are gone in an instant and easily forgotten.

“The power of direct mail is its longevity. According to Royal Mail research, mailshots are kept on average for nearly three weeks, and displayed on fridges and noticeboards. It might seem churlish to use Covid-19 to prove one medium is more effective than another, but marketers should nevertheless take note.”

Another insider said: “The Government appears to have finally recognised that if you have complex messages, direct mail is unrivalled. Back in September last year, ministers were criticised for leaving mailings off the media schedule for the ‘Get ready for Brexit’ campaign. The difference then was that the Government didn’t actually have anything to say; it didn’t know how that was all going to pan out.

“With the coronavirus, there is a lot of disinformation being spread online. When people see something in print, it carries far more weight; and they are far more likely to take it seriously.”

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