This module was created to help you better understand the work within our Corporate Communications Department. Hopefully the passion of our work will resonate while you are reading. The Corporate Communications Department is like no other in the Postal Service. At a moment’s notice, corporate communication employees may find themselves called upon to write a speech, field a newspaper reporter’s inquiry, schedule a postal event, be asked to conduct a television or radio interview, or … even write the introduction to this module! It’s interesting that when you apply for any job in the business world, often “good communication skills” is a requirement for the position. That’s because communication is the foundation for effective managers and leaders. Strong communication skills are an asset that not only can be beneficial in the workplace, but in your personal life as well. Corporate Communications, however, seeks the best communicators. The bulk of field communication jobs in the Postal Service require an all-encompassing skill set successful in many areas. Media relations, public speaking, interviewing skills, crisis communications, counseling and writing to name a few. In this department, no two days are alike. Challenging and fast-paced, communication professionals are known as being the face of the organization, the creators of good news, and the foundation behind employee information. The department is vital to any business who understands the importance of maintaining a positive image with its customers and potential customers. People with a passion for communications succeed. At the end of the modules, we ask you kindly complete the kickback form so we can better ascertain where we can possibly hold seminars in your geographical area so you can learn even more about what we do as well meet a few members of our team. Enjoy.
The term “Media Relations” refers to the practice of developing relationships with journalists and editors at media outlets. The designated spokesperson will garner positive media coverage for the Postal Service, promotional events, or product offerings. In addition, establishing relationships with the media can ensure fair coverage should controversy arise involving the Postal Service and its reputation. The media is a very important resource in the Postal Service’s overall public relations objectives. In today’s 24/7, round-the-clock media environment, news concerning the Postal Service is often rushed to print or air without substantive fact checking. That is why it is imperative the Postal Service has trained, articulate, and self-assured spokespersons to respond to the questions surrounding our ever-changing corporate landscape. A key strategy to obtain fair and accurate reporting through the media is through accurate and timely response to their requests for information. A skilled spokesperson gathers the facts, removes conjecture and presents the organization’s business case with confidence and without trepidation. We monitor the media’s coverage for accuracy and fair coverage of the presented facts.
Good media relations are important to our business. Whereas, in many cases, executives may serve as the spokesperson on a case-by-case basis such as in times of crisis, a skilled corporate communications professional serves on the front line responding to daily media requests for current information and news affecting our vast stakeholder groups. They also serve as the advisor and trainer to the executive who may be charged with responding to the media story. Media relations are as much a corporate strategy as any other operations strategy the Postal Service employs. The ultimate goal of effective media relations is to maximize positive coverage in the mass media without paying for it directly through advertising. It is about building relationships with your managers, colleagues, and the media professionals themselves. Being the face of the organization can appear to be a daunting challenge to many. But through comprehensive training, practice, and desire, you too can be a successful media relations spokesperson serving in an exciting and challenging field.
Media interviews are a great way to get a message out to an audience whether introducing a new product or service, or dealing with a negative situation. Some people are ready to jump in front of the TV cameras, while others have anxiety attacks if a reporter calls to ask questions. Either way, it is important for any organization to be prepared for incoming media inquiries. Most organizations have a policy on how to deal with media inquiries. The Postal Service is no exception. It has a public relations department with a Communications Programs Specialist (CPS) assigned to every district. Normally, reporters contact the CPS directly. However, there are times when a reporter might call a Postmaster or show up at a Post Office unannounced, ready to start firing off questions. If this happens, it’s extremely important to get as much information as possible to prepare for the initial call. When a reporter calls – whether you have prior knowledge they are planning to call or not – we find out the reporter’s deadline. After understanding completely what they are looking for, we answer their questions or call them back in plenty of time for their deadline.
If the wrong thing is said in a media interview, not only is there a risk of sabotaging the Postal Service’s reputation and our own credibility, but we also have to face ongoing media coverage and archives that never go away. Talking to the reporter in advance of a television or radio interview gives us a better idea of how to formulate our message. If you know the reporter’s knowledge of the subject as well as their target audience you will be better prepared to answer questions when the camera or recorder starts to roll. Also, we research the media outlet and any past coverage on the subject. This helps fine-tune our message. Additionally, to ensure a clear, concise and consistent voice in the media, corporate communications often creates talking points. Since most of the time interviews are conducted over the phone, we keep those talking points written down. This doesn’t mean reading from notes directly, but it is used as a guide to make sure we remember the key points to communicate. There is no such thing as off-the-record . When speaking to a reporter, every word out of your mouth has the potential of making it in print.
Probably no two words strike as much fear or dread in a person than these do. But public speaking is an essential part of every professional’s work routine, no matter what company they work for or what their title is. Consider Postal Service managers and supervisors - they spend a great deal of their time writing and speaking to people: employees, colleagues, customers, partners, congressional representatives and other stakeholders. As you advance in your career, you will spend less time handling mail, and more time meeting – and speaking with – various audiences, both internal and external. Some of this is informal, but there is also a great deal of formal speaking. Postmasters may be asked to give a speech at local community or Rotary Club meeting; or address peers at management association events. The Postmaster General, as another example, spends much of his time giving formal remarks to Congress or addressing large mailers such as the Postal Customer Council. For anyone who is planning on moving up the Postal Service career ladder, learning how to speak effectively in public is a crucial skill. How you present yourself to your audiences, what you say and how you say it will become increasingly more important. Everyone can speak, but public speaking is a learned skill. Corporate Communications has a large role in helping managers and supervisors enhance their speaking skills and learn new ones in order to become better public speakers. In addition to our roles as media and public relations experts, we are often called upon to provide training to postal leaders in effective business writing and public speaking. When considering a job in Corporate Communications, keep in mind that you should be able to give public remarks yourself, as well as support postal management with the tools necessary to acquire and improve their public speaking skills.
The definition of “crisis” in Webster’s Dictionary is: A crucial or decisive point or situation; turning point. Certainly we know that a crisis can strike a company or organization at any time. Crisis communications is the critical element of crisis management. The main objectives in crisis communications are to contain the problem, communicate with stakeholders, and resolve the conflict/issue as quickly as possible. Resolution and response are crucial and are the keys to minimizing the fallout. How a company responds to a crisis will impact its reputation and establish its image. Because a crisis can strike at any time, being prepared is the ideal way to avoid and manage the inevitable. There are several recent examples of major crises that are infamous for the way they were mismanaged: Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, and Bhopal are a few that come to mind. Many people remember these because of the mistakes that were made in the management and communications during these incidents. On the other hand, the Tylenol incident is one crisis that experts use to demonstrate the right way to manage and communicate during an incident.
For the Postal Service, a crisis can be caused by weather (hurricanes, floods, tornados, or other natural disasters) or by man-made actions (the anthrax mailings in 2001). Corporate Communications is responsible for crisis communications in the Postal Service. Managing the message and insuring communications with all stakeholders are the major areas of focus for communications professionals. Some of the activities associated with this are setting up an information center, establishing/training a credible spokesperson, developing talking points, creating contact lists, developing key messages, briefing management, notifying media and following-up, holding news conferences, and research and fact finding. In the end, it is important to establish a company’s credibility and reputation prior to any crisis. Having credibility will help a company communicate its messages during a crisis. This will also foster a sense of believability. Remember, reputations are hard to earn but easy to lose.
Internal communications today is about building a corporate culture on values that drive organizational excellence. Employees want to hear it from the Postal Service; they want to hear it from us. When we are ahead of the information curve, it raises employee engagement, confidence and trust. When we get the information out in a timely fashion, it sends a strong message that our employees are valued. Typically, face-to-face communications is most appropriate where the risks of misunderstanding or emotional impact are high. Written or one-way communications are better suited to the low impact, low emotion distribution of information. A wide range of communication tools are produced by Eastern Area Corporate Communication personnel to both empower supervisors for face-to-face communications with employees and to otherwise inform employees through the written word. For instance, all employees receive Eastern Area Update, the color magazine delivered through the mail to their homes. Then there are the electronic Eastern Area publications such as the Eastern Compass, Safety Spotlight, and local USPS NewsBreaks.
These tools and others are powerful channels for sharing important organizational information and reinforcing those values that drive organizational excellence. The messaging is short, simple and straightforward. Our work floors need bite-sized information that is quickly absorbed. In our information-laden culture, most people don’t remember something they’ve heard or read once, and frankly, not every employee pays attention to every communication channel, so our messages also need to be repeated, reworded, and reemphasized in as many different ways as possible. A Communication Program Specialist is tasked with knowing which venues are the most effective to reach specific audiences as well as what information is most relevant to the group. In addition, the CPS knows the appropriate formats, templates and resources to get items printed, posted or disseminated.
Everything you ever read had to be written by someone. Every letter, document, form, news release---every piece of paperwork derived from someone writing it. Likewise, the messages that are written need to be communicated in a manner to be understood correctly. In the Postal Service, as with any business, it is crucial for information to be communicated aptly, so as to convey the right messages and the right images. No matter what your job is, communications should start with writing. By writing things down, you are able to sort your thoughts out and structure those thoughts into significant messages. Every job depends on proper communication through some sort of writing. As mentioned in previous modules, there are several avenues for the art of writing. Media relations are the primary source from which the general public receives information about our business. It provides facts concerning objectives and actions throughout the Postal Service. Misinformation can lead to disaster, especially in today’s media oriented world where news travels faster than ever. Writing for the media needs to speak the language of the public more than the jargon of the Postal Service. Speakers in all aspects depend on the written word to keep them focused and on track, whether they are speaking to employees or addressing a large assembly. Writing for a speaker can be as simple as writing the bullet points the speaker wishes to address or formulating the words for the entire speech. The writer needs to know the speaker as well as the audience in this respect. A good writer can make any speaker sound better. A good speech will give the speaker a sense of confidence to say the words as they need to be said, no matter how large or small the audience.
As with the skilled spokesman, the skilled writer presents the facts while removing conjecture, communicating the confidence of the Postal Service in a positive light. It was mentioned in a previous module that every word spoken has the potential of making it in print. To avoid saying the wrong thing, it is a great practice to write your thoughts down. Likewise, every word written has the ability to be taken the wrong way. It is highly important to be able to say what is meant without creating disorder. Corporate Communications can help in eradicating the confusion. Fortunately, communicating procedures and order isn’t the only job of an efficient writer in the Postal Service. With over 500,000 employees across this great nation we have an abundance of wonderful people doing extraordinary things every single day. These people need to be recognized, not only for themselves for the entire postal team. Writers can share the stories of these amazing people through means such as the quarterly Area UPDATE publications, the daily USPS NEWS LINK, and weekly transmittals that are distributed electronically through the Areas or Districts on the web. It helps to recognize the positivity these stories tell, and it in turn gives a piece of positivity to a workplace that too often is viewed as being plagued with despair. Positivity builds positivity. People need that, and it needs to be written. True writing, in which the entire content of the communication is comprehended in a manner that can be reconstructed in thought or in words, is a skill that takes practice. Corporate Communications would like to help grow these skills so you are able to practice them with ease. Writing for the Postal Service can be a challenge, but it is a rewarding one. The first time you see your words in print, or hear your words spoken to a crowd, you will know what we mean.
The Communications Program Specialist (CPS) position is often exciting and challenging, but always interesting. Every day you encounter new challenges; every day you work to promote the best of the Postal Service while defending and explaining postal policies, actions and processes. This is no 9 to 5 job; more like a 24/7. But there is never a dull moment as you become the face of the Postal Service for the media and other stakeholders. When you stay current on what’s happening internally, and as you build rapport with individuals in key positions – like labor relations, consumer affairs, postmasters, postal inspectors and OIG – you will be able to keep ahead of issues that may get highlighted in the media. You will be prepared for inquiries before the first reporter calls. Proactive stories are those you place in the media – promoting new products and services, hours of operations, holiday schedules, events, postal people, etc. By staying attuned to local and national issues and events, you can often lead the campaign of “what’s new” at the USPS. Proactive communication efforts also rely on your ability to work with departments to provide material internally to employees or externally to customers. Informing and educating audiences on how to successfully navigate through the Postal Service for professional and personal endeavors is the goal.
How does a CPS accomplish good reactive and proactive communication? By now, you have already covered the modules on writing, handling the media, public speaking and an overview of communication tools. Developing and utilizing this skill set will assist you in accomplishing communication goals. Furthermore, you will utilize these skills to complete complex projects, such as preparing a communication plan – encompassing many audiences and utilizing several channels – or narrow initiatives like reaching one audience through one vehicle – like a news release. As stated, developing professional skills will assist you in performing CPS duties. But there are other abilities you must develop and possess. They include: Being knowledgeable about the Postal Service and the audiences you intend to inform or educate. Being organized as you prepare material for presentation; preparation is the largest component of any response. Being honest. There are times you cannot reveal all that you know but you should never lie. Your integrity and that of the Postal Service is at stake. Finally, a CPS needs to build trust with leadership, peers, audiences and external contacts. This comes down to one thing – ability to foster relationships. A CPS may need to counsel District Managers or Lead Plant Managers on sensitive issues that can damage the Postal Service’s image. Being a trusted ally and a respected source will enhance you ability to do your job as well as make you a valuable member of the postal team. Having a place at the leadership table is the way you can guide and advise those making key decisions. To summarize, a Communications Program Specialist uses his or her skills – written, oral and organizational – and then utilizes internal and external relationships to promote or in some cases, explain how the Postal Service works. It’s a fast-paced, job that will give you a great appreciation for the amazing work the Postal Service does to deliver to and for America.
Our communications team in the Eastern Area is committed to developing future communicators. This Build the Bench approach will help ensure corporate communications will maintain its high standards and continue to serve as a vital function to our organization. Plans are underway to host a networking conference in your area. The conference will allow you to not only network, but to also showcase or improve your skills. Picture yourself doing an on camera interview, delivering a speech, writing a release, or meeting a few members of the team helping you with some tips to further your talents – whether it is at work or in your local community.
We hope you have learned a little more about the corporate communications function in our area. We would like to obtain your feedback about our modules and to also see if you are interested in possibly attending a Corporate Communications Workshop. Please send your comments via email to Paul F. Smith, who is the manager of Eastern Area Corporate Communications. He can be reached via email at [email_address] . Thank you.
Media Relations <ul><li>Important to our business’ health </li></ul><ul><li>Protects USPS reputation </li></ul><ul><li>Serves on the information front line </li></ul><ul><li>Advises & trains executives </li></ul><ul><li>Aligns with overall corporate strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Is the public face of the Postal Service </li></ul>
Media Interviews <ul><li>When a reporter calls </li></ul><ul><li>Take time to prepare for media interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Your message </li></ul><ul><li>Aggressive reporters </li></ul>
Media Interviews <ul><li>Never say… </li></ul><ul><li>Practice makes perfect </li></ul><ul><li>What is your personal story? </li></ul><ul><li>The interview – dos and dont’s </li></ul>
Public Speaking <ul><li>Leaders spend most of their time speaking to various audiences </li></ul><ul><li>Public speaking is a crucial part of every professional’s work routine </li></ul><ul><li>Public speaking is a learned skill </li></ul><ul><li>Effective public speaking is an important skill for supervisors and managers </li></ul>
Crisis Events <ul><li>A crisis can strike at any time </li></ul><ul><li>Communications is critical </li></ul><ul><li>Resolution and response </li></ul><ul><li>Response impacts reputation & image </li></ul><ul><li>Preparation </li></ul>
Internal Communications <ul><li>Providing firsthand information </li></ul><ul><li>Employee engagement, confidence and trust </li></ul><ul><li>Producing timely information </li></ul><ul><li>Employee value </li></ul>
Writing <ul><li>Everything you ever read had to be written by someone </li></ul><ul><li>It’s crucial to convey the right messages and images </li></ul><ul><li>Writing needs to be effective </li></ul><ul><li>For anyone moving up in any career, learning the skills of writing effectively is as crucial as knowing the tasks of the jobs they employ </li></ul>
Writing <ul><li>Misinformation can lead to disaster </li></ul><ul><li>Writing needs to speak the language of its audience </li></ul><ul><li>Present the Postal Service in a positive light </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize employee accomplishments </li></ul><ul><li>Positivity builds positivity </li></ul><ul><li>True writing is a skill that takes practice </li></ul>
A Day in the Life: Communications Programs Specialist <ul><li>CPS job is exciting, challenging, interesting </li></ul><ul><li>Promote USPS </li></ul><ul><li>Inform/explain/defend postal policies and actions </li></ul><ul><li>Proactive stories </li></ul><ul><li>Reactive stories </li></ul>
A Day in the Life: Communications Programs Specialist <ul><li>Develop and sharpen skills </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Writing, speaking, media and crisis communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learn about Postal Service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Utilize organizational skills & integrity </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Build relationships </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop trust </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Foster rapport with stakeholders </li></ul></ul>
What’s Next? USPS Eastern Area GCommun commCommun CoocmmdCommun NaEAEasterme This is a special opportunity for those interested in learning more about the corporate communications function of the United States Postal Service. This conference will enable you to better understand the fast-paced environment of the communications world as well as meet and greet those in the function as they share their invaluable tips on what it takes to be a part of this dynamic team. DON’T MISS THIS IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY! USPS Eastern Area Corporate Communications Career Networking Date: To Be Determined by Interest Where: Possibly Your District WHO SHOULD ATTEND? <ul><li>What will be covered? </li></ul><ul><li>Give us an hour and you will learn about the duties and role of the Communications Program Specialist. It’s a chance to see if communications is an area you would like to pursue. We’ll provide you an overview on the skills needed to: </li></ul><ul><li>Respond and prepare for media inquiries </li></ul><ul><li>Give a public speech </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare written communication </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate internally and in crisis </li></ul><ul><li>We’ll also highlight: </li></ul><ul><li>Communication channels available </li></ul><ul><li>What a CPS does </li></ul><ul><li>Finally, we’ll provide contact information and suggest things you can do now to showcase and develop your talents for future opportunities. </li></ul><ul><li>Who should attend? </li></ul><ul><li>If any one of the following sentences applies to you, we encourage you to attend. </li></ul><ul><li>I’m interested in networking with communication professionals in the Eastern Area. </li></ul><ul><li>I’m interested in the communication field but want to learn more. </li></ul><ul><li>I have a communication degree and would like to put it to good use. </li></ul><ul><li>We will keep you posted if Corporate Communications Career Networking is coming to your district soon! </li></ul>
Feedback <ul><li>Thank you for your interest! </li></ul><ul><li>Contact: [email_address] </li></ul>