Why deceased mailings are much more than a dead loss

simon mclavenEarlier this week a friend of mine told me how she had just received a piece of charity direct mail sent to her home address. The letter was addressed to the previous occupant, a Mr Davis.

Mr Davis died three years ago; his name, at that address, is on our National Deceased Register (NDR) – I checked, and obviously the charity in question is not screening their data effectively, if at all.

Furthermore, the strapline on the mailing stated that coronavirus had devastated their organisation. I wonder how Mr Davis’ widow would have felt about their bold statement if she had still been living at that address and a charity her husband had supported during his life was still asking for his support three years after his death? I think she would have been devastated too.

The demographic of those whose lives are most commonly being taken by coronavirus and the demographic of many charity donors, are identical. Some inexperienced marketers are running a huge risk by mailing families of the newly deceased because they are not properly screening their data.

As marketing professionals, we understand the importance of thorough deceased screening prior to sending out mailings and we know that we need to be particularly vigilant as we navigate our way through these pandemic months.

We also have the GDPR for guidance – the fourth principle of which is accuracy: “Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.” According to the Information Commissioner’s Office, this includes removing records that are deceased – unless you can provide a valid reason for retaining them.

But many thousands of deceased customers are still being mailed every year – causing untold distress to the bereaved, wasting money for organisations and potentially damaging brand reputations. However, there soon could be another compelling reason to keep your data clean.

Like many of us, I am following, with interest, the ongoing case involving a mailing that was sent from Manchester City Council to a mother, asking that she register her son for a primary school place. Her son had died three years previously and she was still receiving counselling at the time the mailing was sent. It is claimed that the authority sent letters of this nature to almost 100 other bereaved families in the area.

If the case finds in favour of the claimant, it could open legal-action floodgates and these types of mismanaged mailings could start to cost organisations thousands of pounds in compensation and legal fees. Not to mention the damage they will have caused to their customer as well as to their brand.

But brands can mitigate this risk, and comply with GDPR, through appropriate deceased data cleaning. A relatively small outlay for an annual licence will quickly pale into insignificance against the time and money that your brand could be forced to spend in litigation to settle claims. And, if that isn’t compelling enough, screening deceased records from mailings is morally the right thing to do, too.

Simon McLaven is chief executive of Ark Data

Print Friendly