The well-publicized financial woes of the US Postal Service have upset the American public. Even in the digital age, we love mail–or at least the idea of mail–because a handwritten letter demonstrates more commitment to communication than does a text, a tweet or an email.
Some accepted facts: There is no substitute for a smudged love letter. Birthday cards should come with stamps on them. And all wedding invitations should be opened on the kitchen counter, by hand.
Nevertheless, times change, and as the anemic economy that is defining a generation continues to take casualties, the USPS has been on the defensive. It is shutting down post offices and laying off workers. Deep down, Americans want the USPS to remain relevant to our lives in some feasible way. We really do. Now, however, it appears the USPS has found a way to increase revenue that may come at the expense of alienating the very customers who wish it well. Their strategy? More junk mail.
As the world grows more digitally connected and eco-conscious with each passing day, the USPS plans to generate revenue by granting Valassis Communications, America’s biggest direct mailer, a bargain by offering reduced rates for increased volume. That’s right–We’re all going to be getting more junk mail.
Though the USPS is seeing dollar signs, they’re overlooking a critical principle in the public relations industry: Know your audience. We’d like to offer the USPS some unsolicited advice: Americans hate junk mail. The public sees junk mail as an offensive waste of paper, resources, effort and time. Junk mail was spam before there was spam; it clogs up our mailboxes while we’re on vacation; it is a form of outright trash that faceless companies send to our homes; it is made of dead trees that once housed bluebirds’ nests, protected Bambi from the summer sun and inspired indie bands to write songs about rainforests. Junk mail is, well, junk. And if we really wanted to buy a vacuum cleaner, we’d do it online.
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