US Postal Service sings the praises of latest offerings

The US Postal Service last year auditioned 800 letter carriers from around the country for a new ad campaign.

The US Postal Service last year auditioned 800 letter carriers from around the country for a new ad campaign.

Local winners were named in 80 postal districts, with nine picked from that group for the national ad effort.

District postal public affairs specialists were asked to use local winners in efforts to build awareness among staff and consumers for postal products and services available online and in new automated kiosks.

Green Bay, WI, letter carrier Dana Erlandson, the winner in the Lakeland District, which encompasses two-thirds of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is a musician and songwriter. Joanne Blackburn, Lakeland District communications program specialist, decided to use Erlandson's musical talent to get attention for him and the Postal Service during the holiday season.

Strategy

Blackburn first asked Erlandson to write a jingle for the Postal Service's click-n-ship offering, which allows consumers to print out labels and postage online and have packages picked up by postal workers. She also asked him to write a jingle for the service's new automated postal centers and another to encourage people to mail early during the busy Christmas season.

Tactics

Media outreach focused on TV and radio stations in major centers within the district - Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay, WI. Blackburn scheduled Erlandson to appear at events at which the service was either unveiling new automated postal centers or touting its holiday mail-early effort.

A mail-early event was set for late November in Milwaukee and was to feature Erlandson and a local fifth-grade class, which would sing his mail-early jingle with him. Blackburn contacted the five local TV stations in Milwaukee with media advisories and follow-up phone calls.

"I really try to focus on what will get their attention - they need a visual," she says of her decisions to have grade-schoolers perform with Erlandson.

She did the same type of outreach when holding special events featuring Erlandson to unveil new automated postal centers in Madison and Green Bay, as well as in Milwaukee.

In Green Bay, Erlandson's home city, she invited one TV station to follow him on his route on December 21, traditionally the busiest mail delivery day of the holiday season.

When the Milwaukee Fox TV outlet prepared to do an annual feature called "Inside Santa's Mailbag," in which children's letters to Santa are read, Blackburn pitched Erlandson as part of that, as well.

Erlandson had received media training from Golin Harris while he was involved as a finalist in the postal ad search and was very comfortable with the media. "He embraced his role to the point where he got his own media coverage" in smaller markets, Blackburn adds.

Results

Events featuring Erlandson to tout the new automated postal center drew 50 people in Madison and more than 100 in Milwaukee. All five Milwaukee stations covered the event, and sales on the day of coverage tripled the average day's figures, Blackburn says. The Milwaukee postal center ribbon-cutting ceremony gained 18 media placements, reaching an audience of more than 1 million.

Erlandson made five TV appearances in all during the holiday season.

Future

Erlandson will continue to be part of community outreach efforts in the Lakeland District. Blackburn is asking him to write a new jingle for Dog Bite Awareness Week in May. She also plans to use him in training videos for postal employees.

In addition, winners from other postal districts have begun using his jingles, supplying them to local media outlets.

PR team: US Postal Service Lakeland District public affairs team

Campaign: Holiday Postal Campaign

Time frame: Late November to December 25, 2004

Budget: less than $600

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