Every labor communicator is responding to minute-by-minute changes in policies and practices affecting workers’ livelihoods. ILCA members are challenged to process, manage and disseminate essential information to both internal and external audiences. Just by doing our work, labor communicators are producing real-time, textbook examples of crisis communications case studies. In this series, we’re profiling national newsmakers who are amplifying labor’s call to protect the physical and economic health of workers. We’re looking at the strategies and tactics shaping their crisis communications to extract lessons and best practices that are proving effective in this demanding moment.
The situation: Every American knows that the United States Postal Service delivers medicine, paychecks and other essentials of life. What’s more, postal employees are woven into the social fabric of the communities they serve. Residents see their familiar letter carriers delivering to households six or even seven days a week. Other job classifications are working in post offices, sorting facilities, and warehouses to route mail to the people depending on it. Workers and the public share the same interdependent goals – to uphold essential jobs and effective service delivery. The Postal Service is under unprecedented attack from the White House and corporate interests that want to see privatized postal delivery. As always, labor is fighting back, supported by allies from all walks of life.
Postal people speak: Postal employee unions are letting their members do the talking. On the NALC Heroes Delivering website, viewers can find videos of the union’s paid ads featuring workers. And letter carriers are getting the message out in letters, op-eds and interviews in news stories around the country.
The campaign got a boost from the AFL-CIO communications shop, which produced this video featuring a letter carrier.
NALC is using its Twitter feed to spotlight its members, telling short stories about the socially beneficial and sometimes life-saving assistance that members lend to people in need.
The union also is posting news developments combined with a call to action.
Postal day of action: APWU took the lead to stage a Day of Action on June 23. It centered around a Washington, D.C., car caravan to deliver #SaveThePostOffice petitions to Congress.
Here’s a short APWU video urging the public to lobby for postal service funding.
Here’s an hourlong video of the APWU and allies delivering more than two million petition signatures to the Senate.
These videos and much more appear on the APWU’s campaign page.
Celebrity endorsements: APWU enlisted the support of celebrities to advocate for the Postal Service.
Here’s a public service announcement from actor Danny Glover, the son of two postal workers.
Page one: A letter carrier was profiled on A1 of the Sunday Los Angeles Times, among other small and large newspapers nationwide.
Communications strategies: NALC Communications Director Phil Dine summarizes the campaign status. “With the drop in letter mail volume resulting from the pandemic-caused economic shutdown, the Postal Service — which operates on earned revenue, not on taxpayer money — is feeling the impact, as are other sectors of the economy,” Dine says. “Letter mail is the most profitable mail revenue stream and it has dipped significantly. As a result, temporary federal financial assistance during the pandemic is necessary for the Postal Service, as it is for other sectors of the economy. At the very time the Postal Service is facing this financial crisis, USPS is more necessary than ever, with letter carriers and other postal employees putting themselves at risk by doing their jobs so tens of millions of Americans can shelter at home and help bend the curve of the virus. NALC is letting Americans, and their elected representatives, know this by getting the word out through the news media.”
Here are some of the ways APWU Communications Director Emily Harris has found success. In her words:
- Getting stories: Putting a call out to our members for stories – and, more importantly, to the public for their stories of what the post office means to them (through our U.S. Mail Not For Sale lists) – was a great move. We were able to create exciting content to engage others and encourage calls to Congress. Many of the best stories became letters to the editor or op-eds in local papers, we had content trending well on social media, and were even able to identify people who would be good for other allied groups to speak to for their own content creation.
- Go with the grassroots flow: The people love their Postal Service and the grassroots show of support in April after then-Postmaster General Megan Brennan testified to Congress about the financial crisis was wonderful to see. Stamp-purchasing campaigns started all around social media platforms and the hashtags #SavethePostOffice and #SavetheUSPS started trending. Numerous progressive groups started online petitions to Save the Post Office. We decided that instead of starting from scratch with new hashtags, we would work with what was happening organically. We engaged in conversations on Facebook and Twitter that if someone really wanted to #SavethePostOffice or “thank a postal worker,” they should email their members of Congress and demand funding. Those choices led to instant engagement and sharing of our own content. It also led to unexpected allies in this fight moving forward.
- Coordinating with allies – expected and unexpected: In the end, one communication shop can only do so much. It is with the added voice and power of our allies in the labor movement, the Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service, and other organizations that we are able to amplify our content. Thank you to the many ILCA members for their support! With the grassroots work going on by many organizations (mentioned above), we were able to join with a few unexpected allies. MoveOn.org and Ruralorganizing.org contacted us about specific messaging points around the Postal Service crisis, and from that we developed the joint petition delivery and live event presenting over two million petition signatures to Congress. That would not have been possible without MoveOn.org connecting with #Resistbot, Change.org, and other grassroots groups that had petitions. Another example is the Civil Rights Coalition communications listserv, which I am on. When someone asked if anyone knew about the USPS financial crisis, I jumped in offering to answer any questions. That led to valuable conversations and sharing talking points with numerous organizations, which then published their own content in line with those points.
Here are some of the ways the NALC’s Dine has found success. In his words:
“We deliver the essential points to the public through the media. Among them: the U.S. Postal Service is based in the Constitution. It is by far the most popular federal agency, with more than 90 percent approval from Americans of all political views and in all regions, meaning that this is not a partisan issue. It earns its revenue by selling stamps and other products and services. It is critical for businesses, small and large, and for the elderly.
“USPS is a lifeline for rural communities and center of civic life for small towns. Through its universal network, it delivers to every home and address in the country for the same price, regardless of zip code. It is the centerpiece of the $1.3-trillion national mailing industry, which employs seven million Americans in the private sector. It is the largest employer of military veterans in the country, with nearly one-quarter of letter carriers and other postal employees wearing their second uniform.
“The USPS provides Americans with the most affordable postal services of any industrial country. On a daily basis, letter carriers notice fires, medical emergencies, missing children, crimes in progress, and traffic accidents. By stepping in or calling for help, letter carriers save lives.
“We regularly get these points (and, more broadly, the public’s stake in all this) across in letters or commentary pieces in newspapers, from national papers to local ones; in print, television or radio interviews; or by informing reporters working on news stories. Biggest single key: talk directly to individual editors, producers or reporters; do not rely on press releases or emails. And tell them why they and their audience should care.”
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