Dealing with an Agency
Most large organisations will use an agency to print their letters or deliver their emails. When dealing with an agency you need to think about things from their perspective. How do I make my instructions clear enough that I don’t have to tell them they have done something wrong at a later date. Below is a recommended email format that should cover off all major information. To this you could also add a file specification document if the file contains a different file format.
Dear <Recipient Name>,
Attached is the file for <Campaign Code>: <Campaign Name> for <Date>.
The file is a Pipe (|) delimited Flat file with header record.
There are <record count> records in the file (excluding header).
The file has been encrypted and password-protected using <Encryption Technique>.
I will call you shortly with the password.If you have any questions about the campaign then please contact the campaign owner:
Name: <Marketing Contact>
Mobile: <Marketing Contact Mobile>
Email: <Marketing Contact Email>
If you have any problems with the file please respond to me directly and I will provide a prompt resolution.
Thanks and regards,
Phone: <Work Phone>
Live lasers are samples of the agency letters for the file that you provided before they are lodged (distributed). They are normally delivered as pdf versions of the final letters/emails. This check is the last line of defence before your communication gets delivered to your customer. Checking live lasers is perhaps the most tedious part of a campaign analysts’ job, but it is still very important. There are 2 people that should be involved. A representative from marketing should be checking the marketing elements (spell and grammar checks, the right offer for the right groups, correct branding, etc). The campaign analyst should be checking every bit of data that they have provided and making sure it is displayed correctly on the document. Only once the live lasers have been signed off by both marketing and the campaign management team should the agency be given the go-ahead to proceed.
File Format Standards
I recommend that your organisation endeavour to consistently use the same format for as many files as they can influence, both in terms of input files and output files.
My preference is the Pipe Delimiter (|). Not many people know about it. Most systems can handle it and you will hopefully find very few in your data. The Pipe (|) is found by holding SHIFT + “\” on an Australian keyboard. Trying looking around to see if you can find it. If it isn’t displayed you could probably create a keyboard shortcut to it.
Each of the following links (which open in a new tab) demonstrate how easy it is for organisations to lose customer data, and the significant fines and negative publicity that can arise from it.
These examples remind us of the importance of information security and the necessity to encrypt customer data at all times. This applies both internally (within the organisation) and externally (when dealing with third-parties, agencies and outsourced service providers). Please consult your legal department for company specific guidelines, but at a minimum you should adhere to the following:
Internal Distribution of customer data:
- Place a strong password to open the document (At least 8 characters, combination of Upper/Lower case, Letters, Numbers and special keys) e.g. Machu~P1cchu.
- => A good website for generating passwords as they are needed is Strong Password Generator. Alternatively you could look at the Strong Password Tool on this site.
- Ensure that the recipient has sufficient permissions to view the data. Would you reasonably expect someone in their role to have access to the data? If in doubt consult your line manager.
- Advise recipient of password through another means. If a file is sent by email then you could phone the recipient and give them the password over the phone, or send them a text message. You should never send the password and file by the same means as it is easier to compromise. There is absolutely no point password-protecting a file and then putting the password and attachment in the same email – believe it or not I have seen this happen many times!
External Distribution of customer data:
As above for internal, but the encryption needs to be applied by special software designed to encrypt data. PGP encryption would be recommended. PGP is now owned by Symantec and full details can be found on their website – Symantec
For a longer term outlook you should consider setting up SFTP with all preferred suppliers. This will remove the likelihood of data breaches, as well as streamline and improve the delivery time of data. Campaign management tools can generally save the file directly to the sftp directory so campaigns can be fully automated.
Most standard Microsoft Office software can be easily cracked (For Microsoft Word you only need to press ALT-F11 and delete the password!). There are also multitudes of free software that can allow someone to do this to Microsoft Excel documents. If your data is going externally please encrypt it with an encryption tool. You should be able to find something free using SourceForge or CNET (both links open in a new window). Please read independent reviews of the software before making your choice.