Ian Monk: Royal Mail comms gets lost in post

There is an unsubtle and unfunny irony in the Royal Mail dispute in that the protagonist union marches under the banner of the Communication Workers Union.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

The strikes and walkouts have been characterised by an almost total absence of communication as to the issues and principles at stake.

No attempt has been made by either side to set out a PR stall capable of winning hearts and minds. The irony is compounded by the fact that Royal Mail's CEO Adam Crozier originally made his name in advertising.

Yet until a recent belated appearance in front of the cameras he seemed happy to play the role of one of many invisible men. Co-starring in the role are Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson and Alan Johnson: all politicians from whom a weary and cynical public might have expected some communication.

All parties are suffering from repeated postal strikes in a comms vacuum. Fuzzily defined issues of management's desire to modernise the service swirl against a perception of Luddite posties unwilling to change archaic practices. Nothing is clear.

Each side is failing to deliver a PR strategy to stakeholders as woefully as they are failing to deliver letters.

The image of postmen is generally far removed from that of militant front-line industrial agitators. Yet, because no-one really knows what this dreary dispute is about and everyone is being inconvenienced, postmen are being increasingly abused.

Regard for the unique British institution of the Royal Mail is becoming sullied. Householders and businesses are actively seeking to undermine its status by looking for permanent alternatives, both on and offline, when it comes to future deliveries.

It may of course be that both sides wish to keep their true agendas hidden. If so they are succeeding at least in that.

If not, then someone should remind the ad man and the comms workers that the PR industry is not on strike. It is high time the postman knocked on its door.

- Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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