How to send a letter so only recipient opens?
December 23, 2017 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I am a writer/editor and will launch a personal delivery snail mail marketing campaign. I live in Europe (but am American) and will have someone in the US do the mailing.

I want to send a small, focused letter to a specific person (Communications Director or such like) in a company. I want it to be some sort of special delivery which will need to be signed for, not necessarily by the recipient but someone in the company.

I also want it to be presented in such a way that the intended recipient personally opens it (not an assistant).

I'm out of touch with USPS services/products. Can you recommend the best product for this task?

Thanks in advance.
posted by lometogo to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You probably want "certified mail." Google around to see how it works.
posted by Leontine at 6:33 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would use FedEx actually - I am one of those assistants who opens the mail and I usually open everything except my boss’s bills, correspondence from accountants/lawyers, and FedEx envelopes addressed to him personally.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 6:37 PM on December 23, 2017 [11 favorites]

Certified mail is one option. If you want to be sure that only one person can sign for and receive the letter, you can opt for Restricted Delivery. The USPS defines it as follows:
Restricted Delivery
Specify the person who can sign for and receive your item. Must be purchased in combination with another extra service as follows: Certified Mail, COD, Insured Mail (over $500), Registered Mail, or Signature Confirmation.
The cost for Certified Mail Restricted Delivery is $8.30. If this will not work, you can explore other USPS options at this link.
posted by Roger Pittman at 6:45 PM on December 23, 2017

Unsolicited mail with a demand that it only be opened specifically by a specific important person at the company might raise some alarm bells. You might consider putting the "to be opened by x" letter inside a larger letter introducing yourself and explaining why you only want X to open it.

Whatever plan you go with, consider that making it harder for your recipient to get y our mailing may taint their perception of the message. Look for an option that meets your goal but doesn't add too much extra work for the recipient.
posted by nalyd at 6:47 PM on December 23, 2017 [32 favorites]

If you send an unsolicited letter restricted delivery or through some other mechanism where the recipient, personally, must sign for it, and they wind up having to go to the Post Office or otherwise jump through hoops to receive your letter, the likely reaction is that they will be rather upset with you, and will not be in a mood conducive to reading what you have to say.

USPS Signature Confirmation, FedEx with a signature required, etc... will allow for anyone at the destination to sign for it.
posted by zachlipton at 6:55 PM on December 23, 2017 [22 favorites]

Seconding sending it FedEx.
posted by wearyaswater at 7:07 PM on December 23, 2017

I work in this industry, and I agree with others: you can send it Fedex and the right person will get it.

But I work in this industry, and I have a feeling this gambit is going to piss people off instead of delight them. Publishing generates soooooooo much mail that making it hard for people to get mail they didn't solicit will only make it memorable for taking up their time.

(Also, assistants are often more open to pitches than their grizzled, weary, jaded bosses. Their enthusiasm can often overcome their boss' recalcitrant shell.)
posted by headspace at 7:20 PM on December 23, 2017 [21 favorites]

Just FYI, based on the various roles in i have had in businesses over the last 40 years, if I received an unsolicited marketing piece like this, I would consider it an unprofessional attempt to monopolize my attention and toss it. I may not be typical.

If you are directing your efforts toward persons whose names you know, I would find a more personal way to contact them. If you are just sending to "Communications Director", the chances that the person you intend to open will actually do so seem very small to me.
posted by Altomentis at 7:26 PM on December 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

Thanks for everyone's helpful input. I understand the chances I take with this approach but am willing to assume them rather than use the much overused email approach, plus the difficulty in getting email addresses.

And to clarify, I would not send to, for instance, "Director of Communications". I only used that title as an example of the specific person's name I would get who holds that post.

I believe FedEx or equivalent will be my best option. It seems this would allow anyone at company to sign while the actual recipient would be the most likely to open.
posted by lometogo at 8:26 PM on December 23, 2017

FWIW, pretty much anyone in any significant position of power in anything bigger than a small company will likely not be opening their own mail, regardless of how it's addressed or sent.
posted by ryanbryan at 8:36 PM on December 23, 2017 [11 favorites]

In my Dad's office, you'd mark it Private and Confidential but that may be a solicitor thing
posted by missmagenta at 12:32 AM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Personal and confidential" is the phrase HR uses for pension statements and the like at my workplace, when they want them to be opened only by the addressee (I'm in Canada).
posted by heatherlogan at 7:01 AM on December 24, 2017

Personal and confidential will likely mean that it will be opened by the intended recipient. But you should only use that if it is actually personal and confidential. Otherwise it's going to get short shrift.
posted by plonkee at 1:20 PM on December 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

I THINK you're trying to avoid having the letter intercepted by an assistant or other intermediary. You want it to go right to the person's desk. If so.....

Mode of delivery won't advance your needs. If there's someone screening, that person can just as easily sign for the FEDEX or certified. In fact, in so doing, you're heightening scrutiny by intermediaries. And sorry, there's no way to address or salute or otherwise structure to bypass intermediaries, who are paid to intermediate.

Your best bets:

1. Aim to elicit a "Hmm, I better let her/him see this", by making it somehow either exceptional, personal, or highly specific or technical

2. Keep it very short. Wordy lengthy stuff gets screened. Don't be flowery or formal, get straight, bluntly to the point.

3. I'd suggest sending via email. Use RocketReach to dig up the address. Even better, send a FAX to the general exec fax number, with an "Attention: XXXX" atop in big/bold lettering. And, again, keep it short. Put one preferred mode of contact atop.
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:00 PM on December 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Me again. I should note that I once was forced to email a famous senior Apple exec for intervention. In 140 words, I told him who I was, what had gone wrong, and what I needed, respecting his extreme busy-ness by being laser-clear and getting right to the point. No fat. And it was indeed an issue that fell into his specific purview.

I got action within 20 mins.
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:06 PM on December 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

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