Recently, I did designed, project managed, and research printing/mailing for a folding postcard business mailing. This piece included a panel that the recipient could tear away and mail back for more information. Below are a few things I have learned in my experiences with this type of work.
Lingo: “Score, Fold, and Perf”
To make this piece into a tri-fold with a panel that tears away easily, three things are needed: score, fold, and perf (perforation). A score is simply a single line pressed indentation exactly where you want the piece to fold. This score acts as a guide and when folded the line will be straight and crisp along the score line. The fold is just that, folding the paper along that score line. Finally a perf, which is like cutting tiny little slits in a dashed line across the paper. This will weaken the paper just enough to tear cleanly across that line when prompted, but not fall off when folded for mailing.
Layout for Mailing Purposes
The USPS has very specific guidelines about where the tabs must be, which side the fold is on, etc., mainly because of the machines your mailer must pass through. Items with an incorrect fold or tab may jam the machine or have to be handled by human hands, which may cost you time and money. Your mailhouse will know all the in’s and out’s of these guidelines, but it’s always important to be part of the process and ask a lot of questions so you can be sure things go smoothly. Below is a diagram showing the placement of each panel and which are used for mailing and which for the content of your mailer. The reply card could easily be include a BRM (Business Reply Mail panel), but in this case it did not. When folded and the address panel is right-side up the fold should be a the bottom and open end at the top.
Who does what?
For this project one company printed the item and another company handled the mailing aspect. This isn’t always the case, sometimes a single company can handle things from beginning to end.
- Step #1 Printing: A printing company printed the card, including the appropriate mailer permit for postage, scored, and perfed the appropriate places and delivered the material flat (not-folded) to the mailhouse.
- Step #2 Mailing: A mailing company printed the addresses from the prepared list, folded the card on the scored lines, applied the sticky tabs, properly bundled the mailers by area, and finally delivered them to the Post Office.
Drop Date Versus Landing in Mailboxes
Be very clear with your mailhouse about the difference between when they will physically “drop” the materials at the US Postal Services and when they might land in the recipient’s mailbox. The mailhouse can make guarantees about when they will drop the materials at the Post Office, but they will never guarantee when they will arrive in a mailbox because that is out of their hands. Usually they can give you an estimate, so if your materials are time sensitive communicate that with your mailhouse and they will help you put together a timeline to meet your deadline.