PR to take lead role in USPS comms after move into IPG

WASHINGTON, DC: The US Postal Service has picked an integrated team of Interpublic Group agencies to handle its communications needs, with Golin/Harris International becoming the USPS' PR agency of record.

WASHINGTON, DC: The US Postal Service has picked an integrated team of Interpublic Group agencies to handle its communications needs, with Golin/Harris International becoming the USPS' PR agency of record.

PR spending could range from $400,000 to $2 million in the next year, said Azeezlay Jaffer, USPS' VP of public affairs and communications, who added, "PR has got to be at the forefront of every other communication initiative we use."

The one-year assignment carries the possibility of renewal for three years, Jaffer said. It marks the first time the USPS has sought an integrated team to handle its overall marketing communications. It is using DraftWorldwide and Campbell-Ewald for advertising. Total spending for the integrated program could reach $100 million.

The USPS wants to tell Americans it is transforming itself into a new entity for the future, and that it doesn't plan to be made irrelevant by the internet and other hi-tech communications tools. "Mail is here to stay, contrary to what most people think," Jaffer said.

The service also wants Congress to change various requirements for how the USPS must operate. For example, it can't close a facility even if it is losing money, Jaffer noted.

"The postal service operates under an antiquated business model. There's need for legislative change. We have to change the playing field," he argued.

While it can't lobby Congress, it can tell Americans why it needs to change how it operates. Jaffer sees PR playing a major role in that.

"How do you break it down so the average person in Des Moines, IA, knows there is a need for change?" he asked.

PR will prepare the public for other communications efforts - such as advertising - that will follow, Jaffer added.

Golin will have offices across its network working on the account, said Ellen Ryan Mardiks, worldwide director of marketing and brand strategy.

Mardiks will oversee the account with Lane Bailey, head of Golin's DC office, and director of its public affairs practice. Golin expects to handle public affairs, community relations, cause marketing, and employee communications counseling.

Jaffer said the selection process took about nine months, with six integrated company groups originally considered. "This was an effort to bring all our agencies under one roof," he said.

The proposal calls for PR spending to start at $400,000 for the year, but the service has spent up to $2 million in past years, so what's ultimately spent with Golin will likely be more than the $400,000, Jaffer explained.

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