The US Postal Service's woes are now center stage, as recent reports have noted it might have to shut down next year due to financial insolvency. Whether those doomsday predictions are accurate or not, the mere possibility is alarming. We're talking about an iconic organization that's as old as the United States itself.
Imagine someone watching a Seinfeld rerun and not recognizing Newman's uniform? How many executives started "in the mail room?" The question would become moot. A sad thought, but one that can and should be avoided, at least based on an informal poll I conducted.
I queried 20 or so acquaintances about their mail use. Most still used the postal service for at least some functions. Surprisingly, a fair share of the younger folks still used mail to pay their bills, citing trust or security concerns. Almost every person conceded that mail was their preferred choice for personal correspondences such as birthday cards, wedding invitations, or thank-you notes.
Long story short: most people want the US Postal Service to survive. How does it, though? By remembering that it's a communications-based organization. As such, it has a responsibility to be up to date on how people communicate today.
Of course, plenty of folks now only use the Internet to pay bills and otherwise correspond. So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Every branch location could offer a fee-based Web-enabled station where people can Skype, for example, when they purchase stamps. The local pizza store has this. Why not the US Postal Service?
Visit Wal-Mart and you'll surely see a Starbucks or Pizza Hut stand. Consumers love one-stop-shops. Brands like to link to other brands. The US Postal Service could get in on this.
The service could also provide opportunities for brands to use its offerings. Stamps, mailboxes, and its trucks offer prime real-estate. Yes, as a government-run arm, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act does present an obstacle, but not an insurmountable one.
These are simply rudimentary suggestions. They certainly don't factor in essential decisions the organization faces in terms of its workforce, bills, and other business-related matters. However, even if you assume the US Postal Service will pay off its debt and survive beyond 2012, it needs to think like a 21st century communicator. That is the only way it can deliver itself long-term viability.
Gideon Fidelzeid is the managing editor of PRWeek. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.