Remember that note you passed in fourth grade? It could have been a Valentine. It could have been of the “Do you like me? Check Yes or No” variety. It was supposed to go straight to the person you had a crush on but got intercepted. Traumatic! No direct mail security at all!
5 Direct Mail Security Tips
Many of us learned early on a very important lesson: envelopes contain private information. And sometimes that information is extremely sensitive. Except the consequences for unsecured mail now go far beyond embarrassment. Failing to take measures to secure your direct mail can lead to serious fallout, such as information and identity theft.
If you’re sending or receiving any documents pertaining to finances, billing, insurance, medical or dental care, religious belief, personal correspondence, or any other variety of sensitive information, it’s crucial that you do all you can to ensure document security, to protect both you and your constituents. Though we still can’t vouch for the safety of your Valentines, here are our top five ways to go about securing your direct mail.
1- Protect data at the printer.
Many organizations choose to outsource their print jobs, and for excellent reasons. In-house publications, if not done by a professional graphics and communications team, can all too easily turn out looking homespun or dated.
But one benefit of print jobs done in-house is that your organization has 100% control over the data you handle as you produce your campaigns. If you outsource your print jobs, do you know what measures, if any, your printers are taking to keep your information secure?
If you’ve worked with your print company for a long time, it’s likely you’ve established a good rapport and a trusting relationship. We’re not suggesting you suddenly rush in waving a flag of suspicion. Rather, whether working with a new or long-standing partnership, gently inquire about their data protection policies and safety measures. How do they secure their files? Are they sending and receiving drafts and mockups through a protected server? Some printing companies that handle large amounts of sensitive data even take out an insurance policy against data theft. See what your print company has available.
2- Protect data with your DM services provider.
The same goes for your direct mail services providers. Their safety measures can include:
- Employee background checks
- Secured and monitored facilities
- Password protection, encryption, firewall, and antivirus software and services
- Limiting communications with clients to particular staff members
- Immediate shut down of portal access to former staff members
- Clear, watertight workflow and documentation procedures
- Third-party security monitoring
- Secured system and file backups
- For medical data: meet all HIPAA requirements
Direct mail service providers should be upfront about their security procedures, without your having to ask. If you have to work hard to inquire, or you’re not getting satisfactory answers, step back and evaluate. They should be especially upfront about policies to never share your information with outside companies, even if that’s just a name or an address.
Whether or not you use a third-party provider…
3- Check your own channels.
Protect your data at the source. Do you know where all of your data is coming from, where it’s being collected, who’s collecting it, and how it’s being secured? The answers to these questions should be clear and unequivocal. This data can contribute to your direct mail campaigns, but you need to keep it safe. Here are the places you need to check:
- Online giving and purchase pages
- Email software and server
- ERP (enterprise resource planning) technology
- Marketing automation tool
- Mailing lists (even those handy-dandy Excel sheets!)
- Membership/client databases
You may have more resources than this. The point is, before you ever draft that endowment campaign letter, design that pledge card, or send that monthly bill, review and ensure the security of those places where you glean your marketing information, as well as those places you will store information you receive. Security software updates and password protections are two of your first places to check.
4- Read up on top-tier data protection standard practices.
This is for your own good as much as your customers’ and members’. If your constituents feel safe and comfortable with the way you’re handling their information, all the better. Check out some of the UK’s direct marketing laws for some very polite, very secure ways of handling others’ info.
5- Make your envelopes like a steel trap.
Okay, so not literally. But most data theft is not going to come from people busting open their mailboxes and tearing envelopes open. It’s typically more subtle, and prevention is also subtle. Effective information thieves try first to take what they can without opening the envelope at all. This means it’s your responsibility to do all in your power to make sure that sensitive information is covered over.
It usually doesn’t take much to make an envelope really secure. The fold of your paper can make a difference, with sensitive information falling within the thickest fold of your letter, brochure, etc. But for direct mail you send, and for replies you expect back, provide envelopes with safety features. Tamper-evident envelopes might do the trick for your highest-security jobs. But most organizations handling sensitive information invest in a simple security tint, to prevent info thieves from reading information through an envelope by holding it up to light.