Whew! Those two paragraphs contain gut-wrenching fear, guilt and anger. How can you not give to an organization that’s dedicated to decreasing occurrences of tragedies such as these? Yet none of this deeply personal story — or any of the other hundreds of stories MADD has in its files — is communicated in this oh-so-slick mailing with all the happy stickers.
Stick with the story
Freelance copywriter Harry Walsh writes: “The tone of a good direct mail letter is as direct and personal as the writer’s skill can make it. Even though it may go to millions of people, it never orates to a crowd but rather murmurs into a single ear. It’s a message from one letter writer to one letter reader.
“Tell a story if possible. Everybody loves a good story, be it about Peter Rabbit or King Lear. And the direct mail letter, with its unique person-to-person format, is the perfect vehicle for a story. Stories get read. The letter I wrote to launch the Cousteau Society 20-some years ago survived hundreds of tests against it. … The original of this direct mail Methuselah started out with this lead: ‘A friend once told me a curious story I would like to share with you … ‘”
That said, this MADD effort is obviously working, since it’s been received in the Who’s Mailing What? archive since 2001. But is it doing well? Or is it time for a new control? The answer could lie in the second paragraph of Wendy’s letter:
“You see, with everything that’s happened, we’ve seen a serious decrease in contributions, and we’re worried that some of our life-saving programs will suffer in the months ahead.”
This is a bland, serviceable effort. To read some excruciatingly powerful reasons to give money — indeed, devote your entire life — to MADD, go to www.madd.org. That’s where the action is.