I recently attended the Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA) Spring Meeting. I came away even more impressed than I already was with how much this organization focuses on the future. As a member of the EMA board of directors, I participated in a strategic long-range planning (SLRP) session to lay out the direction the association will take over the next three years. (And just to show that EMA members don’t take ourselves too seriously, we, of course, spent the rest of the meeting referring to this session as “slurp.”) This was a well-run session that set goals and started putting together an action plan to achieve them.
The Spring Meeting also lived up to the EMA tag line, “Moving Communication Forward,” by focusing on several discussion topics: the importance of maintaining paper-based communication options for those who are unable to access information electronically, highlighting the importance of mail to our economy and advocating for a financially stable U.S. Postal Service.
Mail Means Jobs and Effective Marketing
A hot topic of conversation at the meeting was the EMA Foundation for Paper-Based Communications 2015 Mailing Industry Jobs Study. This report documents the number of mailing industry jobs and the associated sales revenue by state and by congressional district. It provides factual information valued by administrative agencies (such as the Postal Regulatory Commission) and members of Congress. The EMA Foundation Jobs Study has become the definitive document on this topic throughout the direct mail industry.
Speakers at the Spring Meeting included Barb Pellow of InfoTrends, who provided the group with a look at recent research showing that direct mail remains an integral part of the marketing mix. This research shows that direct mail remains an effective and measurable marketing tool, especially when data is employed to make the mailpiece personally relevant to the recipient.
A Review of USPS Finances and Strategy
The EMA Spring Meeting also took a deep dive into the state of USPS finances and postal reform legislation. USPS CFO Joe Corbett told the group that the Postal Service is working very hard to get back to financial health. He said the agency is running “very lean, given current constraints” contained in current postal law. He said the Postal Service is focused on retaining First-Class Mail, encouraging digital integration of direct mail and growing parcel shipping volume. Corbett also expressed concern about the loss of revenue stemming from the end of the exigent surcharge earlier this week, saying that the Postal Service will be challenged to continue achieving operating profits without this additional revenue stream.
Nanci Langley, Vice Chairman, Postal Regulatory Commission, provided an overview of recent PRC activities, stressing that the commission is focused on ensuring “reliable, efficient service at affordable rates.” She shared the PRC’s concern, expressed in its recent Annual Compliance Determination, about ongoing service performance issues and that the commission has directed the Postal Service to provide a comprehensive plan to improve service by the end of June. Langley also provided insight into the comprehensive review of the rate-making process that the PRC will begin in December.
The review is required by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) passed in December 2006 and will be a reassessment of whether current postage rates meet all legal requirements and whether the current rate cap system is achieving its intended results. Langley observed that although the PRC is empowered to make changes to the rate-making system to better meet the objectives in PAEA, the commission understands the need to avoid the “rate shock” that could result from making large changes too quickly.
Jim Sauber, Chief of Staff at the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), gave an overview of the current state of postal reform efforts in Congress and how NALC is working with other stakeholders to attain passage of a mutually agreeable bill in the near future. We appreciate the willingness of NALC to partner with EMA and others in the mailing industry to accomplish win-win postal reform legislation.
Along with all the postal content, the EMA Spring Meeting also included a robust management and technical track that included a strong focus on safety. I couldn’t end this post without bragging about the associates on our Chanhassen Envelope Team who earned 2015 Industry Safety Leader and Most Improved Safety Performance awards. Way to make us proud!
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