FEMA Mailings Miss the Mark: A Case for Serious Updates

May 23rd, 2024 by

Today I received a mailing from FEMA regarding Flood Insurance.

Lucky me, my area was recently rezoned as being in a flood zone. Mind you, I live over 15 miles from the Florida coastline in an area that has no canals, lakes, or waters nearby. This is all because my homeowner’s insurance policy was bought by another company that requires flood insurance. (Ah, to live in Florida.)

Anyway, I opened the FEMA mailing. There was a personalized acknowledgment form for me to sign, complete, and return in the SSAE. For those not in the business, that means a stamped, self-addressed envelope – i.e., no postage needed. It was very official. There was an acknowledgment form copy for me to keep, a personalized property claims history form (no losses on file), and a blue National Flood Insurance Program Claims Handbook. It was dated October 2017. Oh, and the letter itself was dated May 31, 2024… and I received it on May 19th. (Hmmm)

OK, so why am I blogging about this?

This is an example of a direct mail effort that nobody proofed or put any marketing sense into.

This was not a cheap mailing. Four pages (printed on nice heavy stock, BTW), a blank page (who knows why), a return envelope, and an enclosed “important” booklet that is seven years old.

C’mon – unless someone ordered enough of these booklets to last a century, these needed to have been updated for this decade.

Get Ready to Type in an Emergency

In an emergency, the booklet gives you a URL to contact. It is a long, underlined URL to contact – “Read about what is and what is not covered at (fema.gov/media-library-data/1432130966606-ec9a9793a03f4ab5655de0db708a256/Fact_Sheet_What_is-Covered-508.pdf).

Wow, can you imagine typing that in an emergency when your house is flooding and you have to figure out if it’s a 0 or an o.

Why isn’t this made easy for consumers to use? Where is the QR code? Where is the digital component?

On the bottom of the all-important Acknowledgement letter that I need to complete and return, there is this disclaimer (in small font):

Under the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004 (S.2238/P.L. 108-264), Congress requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which oversees the NFIP, to submit this Acknowledgement Form for your signature. This form simply acknowledges that you have received the information.

So, basically, the disclaimer is telling me that in 2004, Congress wanted to make sure that people who live in flood zones understand what FEMA doesn’t provide for them and that they should get their own flood insurance.

Also – on the Acknowledgement Form, there is a weird-looking QR-ish image on it. I tried every camera and QR code reader I have on it – nothing. I’m thinking it’s a secret government code.

What if I don’t sign and return this? Is there someone in FEMA whose job it is to open the return envelopes, look at the signed acknowledgment forms, and know who RSVP’d and who didn’t? What are they doing with these returned forms?

Of course, I’m going to send it back. I am a rule-follower. And, I can get over the pre-dated letter thing because I am over-efficient and like to get things done before a deadline anyway.

Back to the Booklet from 2017

I asked my ChatGPT4 if there had been any updates to FEMA since 2017. Rather than regurgitate exactly what he said, there have been many changes to FEMA policies since 2017, including the 2018 Disaster Recovery Act, guidelines for public assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, transitional sheltering assistance, and mass care and emergency assistance planning during pandemics. There were other new policies as well.

For more detailed information, you can visit FEMA’s official regulations and guidance.

It’s time for FEMA to update their mailing – especially the booklet they are sending out to consumers with more current information, including QR codes for easy access to the site and important updates. That would make this direct mail campaign more relevant to the consumer.

Wrap Up Comments on this FEMA Direct Mail Package

Pros – Use of direct mail. No fooling around, direct mail is the only marketing channel that can boast a guaranteed deliverability of a message. The mailing was personalized, addressed to me, and had my insurance provider and policy number printed on the Acknowledgement Form. That made it feel personal and “official.”

Cons – Post-dated letter. Weird QR-ish code. Outdated marketing collateral. Heavier-than-usual-paper stock plus an extra blank page (gov’t wastage?) No options to reply digitally.

Quick Suggestions – Need to proof letter and package, update collateral materials, include a QR code to take us to the site, provide digital options for responding.

Not rocket science, FEMA. Just common marketing sense.