Personnel Concepts’ marketing: Out of compliance?

I don’t like receiving upsetting letters.

Nobody does.

But here’s an envelope I received in the mail yesterday:

Envelope from Personnel Concepts labor law poster notice+enlarge

Why would I receive a letter from The Compliance Service Department at PCI marked “Important – Open Immediately?”

I didn’t know who PCI was, but I was afraid it may have something to do with our business insurance so I opened the letter posthaste.

Here it is:

Personel Concepts labor law poster notice +enlarge

“Final Notice?”

Okay, that made me nervous. We pay our bills around here, and we pay them on time. What’s happened?

As I read a little further, the knot at the bottom of my stomach began to loosen. We hadn’t screwed up—this was another deceptive marketing trick.

In fact, it was trick I was informed about in late August, when I was contacted by Janet Attard of Business Know How, a 20-year-old company that sells these posters online.

She contacted me because she was fed up with questionable marketing tactics of some of their competitors and thought it would be an interesting topic for The Responsible Marketing Blog.

An excerpt:

Businesses regularly get mail . . . telling them they need to buy or update posters immediately to avoid being fined.

The mail is usually worded to be confusing, but not quite (by a hairline) be false advertising.

For instance, there were some changes voted into law for the FMLA this year (Family Medical Leave Act).

The US Department of Labor put an informational poster on its site, but that is only a temporary poster, and while it’s recommended, it’s not required to post. That’s because the DOL hasn’t finalized or issued the new FMLA posting.

That didn’t stop the sleazy marketers from telling companies they had to buy a new poster with the new FMLA regulations on it.

Janet never named names, but the letter I received from Personnel Concepts yesterday sure seems to fit the bill.

It would appear Personnel Concepts’ goals with this mailing were to:

  1. Create enough uneasiness with the envelope to get someone to open the letter
  2. Create enough uncertainty with the letter to get that person to act
  3. Make the letter and envelope look official enough that it might fool companies into quickly routing the form to accounts payable for immediate payment

There is information in the copy that explains that this a product for sale, and that the same posters are provided by the government for free. But everything else has been deliberately crafted to create fear, uncertainty and doubt—with a goal of tricking someone into paying without thinking first.

We’ve seen this approach before, from vanity scams to domain name renewals—some companies would rather deceive instead of trying to persuade buyers their product is worth the price they seek.

To be fair, Personnel Concepts approach isn’t that unique. Some direct marketers use this approach frequently—because it works.

So, is Personnel Concepts’ marketing out of compliance, or are they just really effective direct marketers?

Comment below to weigh in.

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