Direct Mail Jargon, Explained: A Glossary of Mail Terminology

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With SpeakEasy’s Direct Mail templates, you can create beautiful, compelling pieces that have been professionally designed and poll-tested. But, there’s a lot of jargon used in political mail that you might not be familiar with. We’ve created this helpful glossary of terms to guide you through the creation, production, and distribution of direct mail for your campaign.

Types of Direct Mail

BIO/NAME ID: These terms refer to a type of mail piece designed to introduce you to voters and elevate recognition of your name and story within your target audience.

CONTRAST PIECE: Sometimes referred to as a “fight back” or “hit” piece, these draw direct contrasts between you and your opponent. You can use these pieces to highlight your opponent’s negatives or correct the record when your opponent makes negative claims about your candidacy.

GOTV (GET OUT THE VOTE): This refers to the type of mail piece you send at the end of your campaign to drive your voters to the polls. In addition to your name and message, they typically highlight the election date, early voting information, and mail-in ballot information to maximize turnout.

SLATE: This is a piece that lists a number of preferred or endorsed candidates running for different offices during the same election. Often, these are commissioned by unions, advocacy organizations, and other interest groups that endorse candidates.

Components of a Mail Piece

DISCLAIMER: Federal, state, and local elections require that political advertising clearly display the funding source for that advertising, whether it is a campaign, PAC, or other organization. If you aren’t sure what format is required for disclaimers in your race, check the FEC guidelines for federal races, or your state or local board of elections website for specifications. 

DATA: This term applies to the mailing list(s) used for your direct mail campaign. For direct mail, your data will include the full name and full mailing address for each of your target households. With SpeakEasy, you can upload your own list, or we can get data for you through one of our data partnerships to target the voters you want to reach.

INDICIA: This is the printed permit ID that takes the place and space of a stamp on your mail piece. As postage prices can vary depending on the volume and size of your piece, printers use this to verify to USPS that your mail piece has been prepaid by the sender.

PHOTO RESOLUTION (DPI): The minimum photo resolution for physical printing is 300+ DPI (dots per inch). For printed materials, it’s important to use photos that are high enough in resolution to look clear and crisp in the final product. In Windows, you can find the DPI of a photo by right clicking on the image, then selecting Properties > Details. On a Mac, you can find DPI in Preview by clicking Tools > Show Inspector.

RETURN ADDRESS: This may seem straightforward, but please note that political advertisements directly from campaigns require that the return address on direct mail must match the address on your official campaign filing paperwork.

UNION BUG: This is the printed symbol on a piece of mail that verifies that it has been printed by a union vendor. SpeakEasy supports organized labor and only uses union vendors for printing and mail handling.

Direct Mail Mail Processing

DROP DATE: This is the date that your mail piece will enter the mail stream to be delivered by USPS. This is not the date that your piece will arrive at its destination. Depending on your district and the time of year, USPS generally takes 3-7 days to deliver a piece of mail once it has been received at the local distribution center.

SCF (SECTIONAL CENTER FACILITY): A USPS facility that serves as the processing and distribution center for post offices in a designated geographic area. This is where mail is sent after being addressed at a mail house. 

DROP SHIP: After a mail house prints the addresses on your mail piece and sorts your mail, it sends those pieces via overnight shipping to the designated USPS distribution center or SCF for local delivery. This is a great option when you have a tight timeline for distributing your mail.

RED-TAGGING: Designed to give more visibility to political mail, this is a USPS container tag that ensures expedited service for political direct mail during an election. All of SpeakEasy’s vendors red-tag your mail before it is sent out for delivery.

These phrases are just some of the jargon that gets tossed around in world of direct mail. If you have any other questions about direct mail and how to deploy it in a winning campaign, don’t hesitate to reach out! We’re here to help and would love to hear from you.

Until next time, happy campaigning

We are SpeakEasy Political, the leading tool for campaigns and organizations to easily create high-impact digital media and direct mail campaigns.  By leveraging innovative media strategies and our brand building experience, our tech powers Democratic candidates and causes up and down the ballot. SpeakEasy’s Consultant Studio was also built to support consultant teams with leading data, strategic targeting, and comprehensive ad tech to serve as your backend media buying operation.

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