Sunday, September 11, 2011

Donahoe's Downsizing Plan for USPS Yields Huge PR Coup

The past week capped off an astounding publicity coup for the U.S. Postal Service, which is not usually known for its adroit public relations.

Years of conferences, letter writing, study reports, and publicity campaigns by mailers, postal unions, and postal management had largely failed to draw much attention to USPS’s financial plight – or to Congress’ role in causing that plight.

Suddenly last week, it seemed, news of the Postal Service’s dire straits was everywhere – on front pages, leading off network newscasts, featured in one of David Letterman’s famous Top 10 lists, and the subject of a hilarious “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” bit.

What turned the tide wasn’t highly paid lobbyists, high-powered PR consultants, ot clever slogans. (Remember efforts to brand so-called prepaid retiree health benefits as a “Stamp Tax”?)

The key was a bit of Reality Therapy, in the form of postal executives spelling out what they would have to do to keep the Postal Service solvent in light of Congressional policies.

It started with a small dose of reality in late July when USPS announced a list of 3,700 underperforming post offices being considered for closure. The small post offices represent less than 1% of USPS’s budget, and their closure would not be as momentous as recent consolidations of processing and distribution centers.

The news media and general public, however, know little of P&DCs, but everyone knows what a post office is. Post office closings, along with the Postal Service's financial problems, became a hot topic-- with some articles even mentioning that Congress’ failure to yield on USPS’ pension and benefit overfunding as a major culprit. The timing was perfect: After the debt-ceiling debacle, the public didn’t have a hard time believing that Congress was to blame for much of USPS’s trouble.

Then the big dose came last month when Postmaster General Pat Donahoe announced his radical transformation plan, which called for laying off an estimated 120,000 postal workers and closing more than 300 P&DCs over the next four years. The prospect of having to rescind no-layoff clauses in union contracts and putting so many postal employees out of work got Congress' attention.

The news-media pack started smelling a juicy story. It couldn’t resist the opportunity for multiple sound bites from a Congressional hearing this past Tuesday.

“We have NEVER seen this many cameras for a #Postal hearing,” Washington Post reporter Ed O’Keefe tweeted a few minutes before the hearing began.

Despite the praise from mailer groups, Donahoe’s plan is deeply flawed. For example, smoothly transition from more than 500 P&DCs to fewer than 200 in only a year? Not likely.

But the proposal has succeeded in drawing attention to what Not-In-My-District politics, Congressional accounting games, and White House inaction are doing to an organization that touches every American without spending taxpayer money. Perhaps from all this notoriety and discussion, real solutions can emerge.

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Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The truth hurts. The truth will set us free. Let the truth be told. Our US Postal service is not a business to profit from. It's a vital network that the union busting. privatizing profiteering vultures must not be alllowed to touch.

Anonymous said...

I have to add Conan's PSA

Anonymous said...

What about retirees civil service annunitis?
They were earned. Will they be altered, limited, canceled. WHAT IS THE FINAL RESULTS.

Dav said...

ONLY the US Congress is responsible ! They dumped it without equiping it to operate as a Corporation , a Govt' Corporation ? So Congress , time to take it back and do your assigned job !NO excuses ! !

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, the PR will produce good results and not bad ones. Sometimes these gimmicks can take on a life of their own, and the consequences are not what anyone expected.

Anonymous said...

I read your article and I completely agree.
The US government spent over 3 trillion last year. You can look up the exact number on line but I figured it was something like $12,000 for each person in the US.
The amount we pay for defense, schools, police protection, and firemen is staggering. They are not expected to earn revenue and have a balanced budget.
If the government subsidized the postal service at $30 per year per person out of the $12,000 it would provide 9 billion and the postal service could continue to exist with the same convenience we now enjoy.
Citizens would save time and gas and not have to travel further to a post office and avoid going to Federal Express or UPS and paying more than the post office charges.
I would guess Federal Express and UPS would like to see the post office close offices and downsize so they can grow their businesses.
Other then the intelligent column you wrote I do not see anyone fighting for the good of the average American.
I am sure the Federal Express and UPS lobbyist are not helping the situation.
Someone needs to take your message to Congress or the decision makers.
Good for you.

Anonymous said...

USPS made 50 billion profit--
benefits overfunded.

In congressional hearings, looked like both parties involved.

Anonymous said...

'PR' = hired gun liars.

m-tmom said...

"...real solutions can emerge"

Don't count on it.

Anonymous said...


dumbfish said...

The mailers praised Donahoes plan.
Well the group that lobbys congress and the Board of governers got what they want. Anybody see a connection here?. Let me help... the public be damned, give me that lobby money.

dumbfish said...

The mailers praised Donahoes plan. That says a lot right there. The group that lobbies Congress and the board of governors are happy. I guess you can buy votes and guide postal policy if you try hard.
The public be damned.