Client: United States Postal Service (Great Lakes region)
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Peek Into Santa's Mailbag
Time Frame: November/December 2001
Budget: Staff time
The fiscal year for the United States Postal Service (USPS) begins
in early September. For just a few days, then, it appeared as if it
would be a year much like any other for the USPS. Then the terrorists
In the ensuing weeks, with one anthrax scare after another, USPS'
business went into a huge slump. Overall, it collected and delivered 2.5
billion fewer pieces of mail than it did over the same period during the
An overall downturn in the economy resulted in less commercial and
personal mail being sent. Widespread panic and a few instances of
newspapers and television stations going so far as specifically
instructing citizens not to open their mail because of anthrax left the
Postal Service searching for a turnaround strategy to enter the holiday
season - historically, its most lucrative time of year.
Refusing to let the holiday season - which typically brings in 20% of
annual revenue - pass by unsuccessfully, the Great Lakes region's
in-house PR team came up with an idea to work with local media to
encourage people to use the mail system.
"Our holiday mail campaign needed to renew enthusiasm" about sending
holiday cards and packages, and take away the fear factor, says Jim
Mruk, manager of public affairs and communications for the Postal
Service's Great Lakes area.
Every holiday season, the area's post office goes beyond the usual call
of duty by raising awareness of mailing deadlines, and offering tips for
protecting gifts and proper addressing information. The USPS also takes
the opportunity to promote its express and priority services. But this
year, "We needed a creative twist on the evergreen story," says
Shannon LaBruyere, communications specialist for the suburban Detroit
district, examined the idea of capitalizing on letters to Santa. She
pitched the idea to local Fox news stations to have a letter carrier
appear in uniform on television, and read letters addressed to Santa
that children had dropped in mailboxes. By familiarizing the public with
postal workers, the PR team felt people would be put at ease, and regain
the holiday spirit.
Originally pitched only to Fox 2 in Detroit, the USPS was soon asked to
provide enough employees to read three letters per week on Fox News in
the Morning, done on Fox's own set that the station built for the
segment. Ultimately, "North Pole News" (named "Peek Into Santa's
Mailbag" by the USPS PR team) was aired every morning between
Thanksgiving and Christmas. The segment eventually ran on Fox 59 in
Indianapolis and Fox 2 in St. Louis as well.
The address where children could send mail was displayed after each
letter was read on the air by a postal worker, so it came as no surprise
that the Great Lakes area Postal Service received a large increase in
letters to Santa over last year.
The campaign succeeded in instilling comfort in adults living in the
area as well. On the Monday before Christmas - typically the USPS'
busiest mail day of the season - the Royal Oak plant in suburban Detroit
counted 415,000 more postmarks than it had on the previous Monday.
Overall year-end volume came out flat, but the district is content with
its results, and ended the year on a spirited note.
The USPS' Great Lakes region PR team is currently working with the Fox
affiliates to turn "Peek Into Santa's Mailbag" into an annual holiday