After Sandy, a headache for mail firms

After Sandy, a headache for mail firms
The storm's timing couldn't have been worse for some campaigns. 

One of the busiest days of the year for many direct mail firms comes eight days before Election Day as the cycle’s final mail pieces are about to drop. So what happens when that day coincides with one of the most powerful storms in recorded history and your firm is in its path?    It’s exactly what Democratic strategist Joe Reubens and his colleagues at The Parkside Group faced on Monday. The firm does direct mail for a slew of clients throughout New York and is located in lower Manhattan, which was underwater Monday night. “It’s been challenging,” Reubens says of the aftermath of the storm. Luckily, his firm was prepared. “We had meetings about this in advance and we moved up all of our dates,” says Reubens. “We tried to stay a day or two ahead of our normal schedule and we haven’t missed any drop dates.”    The firm’s mailhouse is located in Long Island City, and Reubens says by the time Monday’s flooding inundated city streets, mail trucks were already out of the storm’s path. Trucks that were bringing mail Upstate left Sunday night. “We’re doing work all around the state, so this hasn’t been easy,” Reubens says. “But we’re finding workarounds for just about everything.”   The firm’s principles couldn’t even get to their office on Monday, but Reubens says they’re considering a “reconnaissance mission” later today in an attempt to retrieve additional files they may need in the next day or two.   Like Parkside, several firms told C&E on Tuesday that they made the decision to move up their production schedules in anticipation of the storm. And millions of pieces of mail from campaigns across the country already went out over the past two weeks. Still, it doesn’t stop the worry that many have over when—or even if—all of their last-minute pieces will reach mailboxes in time. “We moved our dates up as much as possible,” says one Republican direct mail consultant who asked not to be identified because of client concerns. “Even with the mail that’s already out, there’s just no answer on when it will hit.”    Generally speaking, mail firms aim to get their final mailer out a week ahead of Election Day. That timetable usually gives the postal service an extra couple of days, ensuring the piece hits mailboxes the Friday or Saturday before Election Day. But thanks to the storm, mail service in many places along the East Coast was suspended for parts of the day yesterday and could be again today depending on conditions.   “You’re just at the mercy of the postal service at this point,” says another Democratic mail consultant. “It’s tough, but you have to just tell clients there’s no room for error. If that mail didn’t drop at the right time, you’re in big trouble.”    

Update: Democratic direct mail strategist Kevin Mack says outside of New York and New Jersey, the impact on mail is limited.

"A few printers and mail houses are without power, but generally speaking, things are moving," says Mack. "We have confidence in the USPS." 

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