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Kremlin on the Potomac: Postal Service Communications

Readers old enough to remember the Soviet Union also remember how skilled it was at saying nothing – about anything – no matter what.  If something happened, regardless of whether it was visible to the outside world, it simply wasn’t acknowledged.  A natural disaster?  Never happened.  The disappearance of an important figure?  He’s fine.  A bomber crash into a village?  No bomber, nothing happened.

If outsiders posed a question about any event, the basic answer, if there was one, was denial, deflection, or obfuscation.  The Soviets never admitted to anything going wrong, to any internal failures, or to any event or condition that might break the illusion they so ardently projected or that might provide an outsider a peek into what’s really going on.

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Firing the Boss

After annual reports are released, corporations that didn’t do well often dismiss their top executives in the belief that better results would be produced by their successors.  Sometimes that works, sometimes not.

Analogizing this to the Postal Service, the ongoing service crisis is resulting in calls for the dismissal of the postmaster general.  As with a company, such action is assumed to be key to righting the ship or beginning a positive improvement trend; but also as with a company, that assumes the CEO is the primary factor in the company’s performance.

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The Right Audiences Need to Get the Message

Over the past few months, and especially over the recent holiday season, there were many occasions on which a postal customer – a representative of a commercial mailer, a mailer’s client, or just a retail customer – delivered a message of dissatisfaction about service (to put it nicely) to a frontline postal employee.

Whether a retail window clerk, a city or rural carrier, an employee at the local BMEU or DMU, a customer service rep, or a call-taker at the Business Service Network, that person neither had anything to do with the reasons for the customer’s dissatisfaction and likely had little to go on to offer an explanation or information about the reported service problem.

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PMG’s Comments to MTAC Raise Concerns Over Price Increase

On January 26, speaking to the virtual meeting of the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy gave a broad overview of his developing plans to get the Postal Service back on track after months of worsening service that culminated in a historically bad holiday season.  As transcribed from his recorded remarks:

“... Calendar Year 2020 has been a tough year for the nation and a tough year for the United States Postal Service.  The causal circumstances continue to plague us in early 2021.  As a result, the consequences to many Postal Service customers have been significant, and we acknowledge the impacts our service decline has had on your businesses and our responsibility to restore.

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Parsing the Causes for an Historic Service Collapse – Analysis

Usually, after the busy fall mailing season and the holiday rush, things return to normal for the Postal Service and its commercial mailing customers.  As everyone knows, however, the current environment is anything but normal.

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USPS Issues Post-Election Report

In a perhaps unusual move, the Postal Service released a report in late December reviewing the 2020 election and its role in the vote-by-mail process.  Posted on its Link site on December 30, 2020, the 22-page document, Post-Election Analysis: Delivering the Nation’s Election Mail in an Extraordinary Year, summarizes the agency’s actions in support of the election process.

The report detailed its performance at the national level:

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PMG Comments Offer a Few Insights

As is typical of a meeting of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, the public session is a series of scripted formalities devoid of the candid remarks and discussion that likely were part of the preceding closed session.  So, during the open session on November 13, the chairman and postal executives read their prepared remarks that, as would be expected, said the right things but offered little of substance.

The closest anyone’s statement came to providing a look at where the agency’s leadership was taking it might be the remarks by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

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Still Paying the Price for Poor Communication

A commentary in the August 3 issue of Mailers Hub News opined on the Postal Service’s failure to offer meaningful communication during times when the popular media is regularly publicizing rumors, leaked documents, and union allegations about what’s going on in the agency.  In concluding that commentary, we urged the USPS to provide accurate and timely information before other parties told their story first.  Similar messages for better communication by the Postal Service came from others in the mailing industry before and since that commentary was published.

From all appearances, the urging has had little effect, and the consequences of the Postal Service’s silence continue.

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Evaluating Rumors About Potential USPS Changes

The possibility of Postal Service price changes was usually an issue discussed only within the mailing industry, but the politicization of the agency over vote-by-mail and other matters has resulted in postal news appearing in the general media.  However, this phenomenon has resulted in articles being published that are based on incomplete information, rumors, or speculation, derived from “unnamed” or unofficial sources, and produced by writers inexperienced in dealing with the arcane world of the USPS.

Changes ahead

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USPS Responds to Worries Over Vote-By-Mail

As has become all too apparent in the popular media, the viability of widespread voting by mail, and the Postal Service’s ability to timely process and deliver the associated volume, have become intertwined with other political controversies.

On one side, notably by the White House, vote-by-mail is portrayed as flawed or corrupt, and that regardless of its use, the Postal Service isn’t capable of handling the volume.  Concurrently, for that and other reasons, the administration is continuing its spiteful objection to any funds for the USPS being included in a COVID-related relief bill.

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Who Do You Trust?

There was a TV quiz show in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s with the grammatically incorrect title Who Do You Trust?  (The show became the springboard for Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, who later spent the next three decades together as fixtures on late-night TV.)  The premise was simple: three couples would appear on the program, and Carson would ask the male a question and he’d have to decide whether to answer it himself or ask the female contestant.  (Attitudes toward gender roles were different back then.)

Though that format may not be applicable in today’s postal world, the title question is very relevant.

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Delivery Changes Met by Media Criticism

Changes to mail processing and delivery procedures being adopted by the Postal Service have been met with criticism in the general media.  News articles frequently cite customer and labor union concerns over delays in mail delivery and fault the USPS for placing budgets ahead of service.

Many examples

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Paying the Price for Poor Communication

The current level of negative publicity about the Postal Service – notably for slow or infrequent delivery, the impact of reported changes in mail processing and delivery procedures, and the potential consequences of these changes on election mail – might not have to be what it is if the USPS simply were more communicative.

Institutional Reticence

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US Senator Asks PMG to Explain Reported Changes

As if to illustrate that running the Postal Service as Postmaster General isn’t like running a corporation as its CEO, Senator Gary Peters (MI), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote PMG Louis DeJoy on July 17 asking for “information about operational changes at the US Postal Service that have the potential to affect the quality of service for Americans.”

Peters’ letter was inspired by the reports of plans to modify delivery procedures that were contained in a PowerPoint leaked by a USPS manager in Ohio and other documents. (For more on this, see the July 25 post.)

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Leaked Documents Suggest PMG Seeking Cost Reductions

When the new Postmaster General took office last month, it was widely assumed that he would make significant changes, though the nature of what those changes would be was then no more than speculation.  However, if the information in a leaked PowerPoint presentation that appeared on postalnews.com last week is credible, change may be starting and is focused on cost reduction.

Quick reference links: "The Source", "Document Two", "Publicity", "Another Talk" 

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If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride

The 400-year-old Scottish proverb used for the title simply translates into how easily things could be attained if nothing more than wishing for them were needed to make them real.

That adage was brought to mind when reading the documents discussed in the preceding articles of the July 20 issue of Mailers Hub News.  Assuming they’re legitimate, they first reveal a determination to act to reduce costs, the need for which cannot be disputed. However, at the same time, they also reflect not only an attitude that whatever is needed or desired will be made real by simply commanding it, but – of greater concern – a misunderstanding of the people to whom the order is being given.

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Advocacy Group Urges New PMG to Act on Old Challenges

When a new leader is appointed to any significant government entity, it’s not unusual for groups to contact that individual to urge action on the writers’ key issues.  So it was when Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a conservative DC think tank, wrote on June 19 to new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, urging DeJoy to take his recommendations on topics of interest to that group.

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Stepping Into the Fishbowl

Last Tuesday, June 16, Louis DeJoy was sworn in as the 75th Postmaster General. Since his May 6 appointment by the Postal Service’s Board of Governors he’d spend weeks working with retiring PMG Megan Brennan, getting briefed on the agency he would be leading. Now the job was his.

Thanks and greetings

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Packing the Postal Service in Five Easy Steps

Note: This article was initially published with an error in attribution; this article was written by Leo Raymond, Managing Director of Mailers Hub.

In the midst of the Great Depression, newly re-elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937. The measure would increase the size of the Supreme Court to as many as fifteen justices by allowing the president to appoint up to six additional justices, one for every member of the court over the age of 70 years and 6 months. Roosevelt had chafed at the court’s rejection of several of his New Deal initiatives, so the plan would have let him add enough new members to the panel to ensure a majority would favor his proposals. Opponents, however, called the proposal “court-packing,” for obvious reasons.

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Amid Political Intrigue, USPS Governors Select New Postmaster General

Note that, after this article was published, the Deputy PMG, Ron Stroman, announced he’s resigning effective June 1.  That will be covered in the next (May 25) issue of Mailers Hub News.


In a press release late on May 6 (below), the Governors of the Postal Service announced the selection of Louis DeJoy as the 75th Postmaster General, at last providing a successor to Megan Brennan whose retirement was scheduled to take effect January 31.

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