Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Goin’ Postal Company’s Response a Good PR Lesson

I recently posted about my dismay that someone would name their company, Goin’ Postal. A couple of days after I sent my letter, I got a response by e-mail. They could have said: "We’re sorry you got offended. We didn’t mean to. We were just trying to be clever."

But they didn’t.

The full response is below. (I did check with them before blogging this. Sorry it’s so long, but there’s good reason to share the whole response.)

Dear Christie,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us. The name “Goin’ Postal” describes what we do, as we offer a variety of shipping and mailing options to customers.

To date, we have received 14 correspondences from folks who felt our name might be deemed offensive, but we explained that quite the opposite is true. We are firm believers in karma/the golden rule and the power of positive thought. If you believe in your heart that you can change negative conditions, and if you are willing to expend the energy to effect that metamorphosis …that positive change will make the world a far better place. We hope that Goin’ Postal will soon become a household name that is synonymous with family values, low prices and old-fashioned customer service, and that the former, negative connotations associated with that phrase will be shed and long forgotten.

Our chain is a family oriented network of locally owned and operated stores, and GPFC trains all franchisees not only to participate in their existing community activities, but also to create new community events for the benefit of the people and pets residing in those cities and towns nationwide. Our stores make a positive difference in every local community where a Goin’ Postal store exists. In short, our stores are focused on working diligently to provide low-cost shipping AND to making every community a better place in which to live though the owners’ and staff members’ active participation in areas of interest to them.

Goin’ Postal Franchise Corporation is also committed to making the dream of owning a successful business a concrete reality, especially for those folks who don’t have the high dollar savings required for the expensive franchises out there. Our store owners are former homemakers, teachers, military personnel, folks who were downsized in their former corporate careers, civil servants, and regular folks from all walks of life. Speaking of civil servants…many of our stores are owned by current and past postal workers, and the United States Postal Service is signing up our stores as Approved
Shippers almost as fast as we can open them, so the USPS is obviously not offended by the name. Many of the customers at every store are also postal workers, especially at Christmastime when they need to ship gifts to their friends and families. We often receive thank you notes and letters from postal employees who are pleased that a once negative phrase is swiftly becoming a positive phrase, due in part to the new association between the phrase and our chain’s high caliber of customer care, community involvement, and low prices.

A little known fact is that the USPS (United States Postal Service) also owns several trademarks to the phrase “Go Postal”, and the USPS has registered to use this phrase on a line of merchandise to be sold in Post Offices. Please take a peek at the United States Patent and Trademark Office ( listings

While we get an occasional email from someone who is temporarily upset by the name (14 correspondences in 4 years), those folks usually understand that we are attempting to put a positive spin on something that was once only known as terribly negative. Also, the USPS obviously doesn’t think the name is a bad one since the USPS wants to sell merchandise with a very similar name on it (Go Postal), and we feel that the USPS should be applauded for working to turn the phrase into something positive, just as we are.

While our first store opened 4 years ago in Zephyrhills (Florida), which is just outside Tampa, we have only been franchising for 31 months. In just 31 months, our chain has grown to over 205 stores strong, and is growing daily. We seem to be a big hit across the entire country…with our franchisees, their customers, the carriers, and vendors.

We hope that you will stop by to visit with the friendly family that owns your local Goin’ Postal store, to perhaps join them at their local events (low-cost spay and neuter clinics, child safety and i.d. events, bike rodeos, family sing-a-longs, and more) to help them to make your community a better place to live…and to join them in rendering the global community a more positive place for all.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to us, and to ask more about our company. We hope that we will have the good fortune of serving you as one of our customers in the near future.

Warm Regards,
Dr. M.J. Price
Vice President, Goin' Postal Franchise Corporation

What an excellent example of public relations as shown by the company clearly being genuine and honest. They were obviously prepared for questions like mine. But more importantly, they had a clear vision in mind before choosing the name of their company – a vision that was both tied to and bigger than their specific business goals.

This response demonstrates:
• There was careful thought before choosing the company name.
• There is deliberate intention for good – rather than being gimmicky.
• There is buy-in from the very people who could most be offended by the name.
• The company is monitoring responses about the company name.
• The company is taking specific actions in communities to remove the negative connotations associated with the phrase, Goin’ Postal.

I am still tremendously concerned about insensitivity in the marketplace and entertainment industry.

But from what I’ve learned about the company, Goin’ Postal, and the response I received, I have turned from a critic to a fan in this case.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

How Can Having a Seemingly Insensitive Name Attract Customers?

Is it just me, or has there been a sudden rise in companies using insensitive names to gain attention. Do you remember the car dealership with the Jihad sale?

I thought I’d seen it all until while driving my kids to the doctor, I saw a new store called, Goin’ Postal. Can you believe it? Goin’ Postal, that derogatory term that arose from disgruntled and sometimes ill people who charged into a post office shooting people. Dead. I know people have used the term since then to be funny. But a store? A franchise to boot. Really?

That’s it, I thought. I’m not going to stay quiet this time. So I went to their web site to investigate a little bit.

Then I wrote a letter (e-mail). This is what I wrote:

I was just visiting your company web site and was heartened to see your emphasis on family and good customer service. So I'm wondering about the story behind the name of your company. What made you choose "Goin' Postal" over other options? Have you had any negative feedback due to the term's origins?

I first got an automated reply: “This email is an automatic reply. We'll reply with a more personal email soon.” It included details on where to get information in the meantime and about how important franchisees are (in case the reader is a current or potential franchisee).

Then I got an email from the vice president saying she was unavailable and would respond to e-mails on xyz dates. She included how she would prioritize which e-mails would be dealt with first. I found that quite thoughtful and transparent. Here’s her priority list:

(1) emails from franchisees' company email addresses
(2) ad approvals
(3) sign approvals
(4) requests for press releases
(5) requests for vendor approvals
(6) exams for grading
(7) continuing education emails
(8) questions from potential franchisees
(9) all other types of emails

But I was still waiting for a reply to my questions. Stay tuned for Part II for a surprise.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Forward Slash vs. Back Slash Smackdown

Let’s resolve the debate: Do web site addresses use back slashes or forward slashes? You hear both when people spell-out a web address. I suppose the “/” symbol to some people looks like it is leaning back, thus it’s a back slash. And to others, the slash is pointing forward, so it’s a forward slash.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter. There’s only one kind of slash in a URL! On most keyboards, it’s that key with the question mark.

So web site addresses are: www dot something dot com slash something. Don’t bother with the back or forward clutter. Keep it simple.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mommy Podcasts do Nichecasting with a Capital N

I decided to take my own advice and look for some podcasts that are related to my hobbies rather than just those about my profession. For over a year, I’ve pretty much only been listening to PR/communications-related podcasts – really good ones that I’ve recommended here before (see posts on April 12, April 30 and May 28, 2007).

But a couple of weeks ago, I started exploring other topics. Here’s how it went: Let’s see. What are my hobbies? No time for scrapbooking or music or exercise or… Hmmm. So what then? Well, I can stock a child’s backpack in 120 seconds. I can cook a 30-minute meal in 20. And I can kiss an owie and make the hurt go away. Yep. That’s it. Mommyville.

So I started looking for “mommy” podcasts. I happened to hear Shel and Neville talking about Manic Mommies on For Immediate Release. And soon after, I heard Eric Schwartzman of On the Record Online talk about MommyCast – which he listens to as a dad. So I tried out both and am hooked. TOTALLY.

These are not little podcasts that reach a few hundred people. Manic Mommies was recently awarded Best Parenting Podcast in the Winter '07 Podcast Peer Awards. MommyCast is a Webby honoree and has sponsors like Huggies, Oral B and Nesquik. Their deal with Dixie is reported to have been for $100,000.

And these women are savvy. Both podcasts have other online features, like branded merchandise for sale. Manic Mommies is planning an “Escape” conference for moms this fall in Newport. MommyCast has an excellent online media kit. And – are you sitting down? – it states that according to Nielson NetMetrics, more than 2 million people listen to MommyCast.

Personally, thanks to these two podcasts, I’ve so far learned that either I’m not as crazy as I think I am, or I am that crazy but at least I’m not alone.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sharing your Delicious Bookmarks

Learn About Social Media from Your Desk

The best part about using Delicious is that you are sharing your bookmarks with others – and they are sharing theirs with you.

Let’s say you are looking for information on scubadiving. You could spend an entire day doing Google searches and mostly find web sites that are selling gear. Or, you could go to Delicious, and search for the “scubadiving” tag. Or maybe you’d be more specific and search for “scubadiving tips.” Your search will display a list of the web sites other people found helpful on your topic. And you can see which ones have been bookmarked the most.

There’s more. But before we go on, you need to do some homework. Your next assignment is to bookmark a few web pages on any topic you like.

The first topic I focused on was web sites that have free or cheap photos and clip art. Then I gave the link to my co-workers so they would stop “borrowing” my CDs. Worked like a charm.

Monday, June 11, 2007

No Comment, No Dice: Investigative Reporter Shares Why You Should Confess

The basics of crisis communication are to admit you have a problem, made a mistake, or are overwhelmed by a situation; make any necessary apologies; and take immediate action to fix the problem.

The reporters that uncover these "problems" can often show up on your doorstep at a moments notice, making it easy for some in management, and even PR, to lose their cool.

So, what can be done to make it a little more constructive when bad news descends on an organization?

To find out, we turned our camera onto Brian Collister, a News 4 WOAI investigative reporter in San Antonio, Texas, and asked him to share a few tips for public relations professionals when someone like him comes calling.

Online Videos by

Collister came to the PRSA San Antonio meeting this week to share his insights. My favorite quote that he gave was:

"I know you have a a canned answer, but I don't want your canned answer. I am looking for something more."

He also said that the public relations person is usually the last person he calls in the process - by that point he already has something that he has investigated and is looking for the organization, or person, to give its side of the story.

Though it is in the video, I think that it bears repeating that Collister, and most investigative reporters, see themselves as getting out information to the public that they have the right to know.

His advice, don't get caught up thinking that you are talking to him, but realize that you are talking to the people that you serve. In other words, don't take it personally, use it to connect with those that will affect your organization.

Cross posted at Communication Overtones

tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lesson Four: Using Delicious

Learn About Social Media from Your Desk

So far, we’ve been focusing on the basics of social media: RSS, blogs and podcasts. But there is much more. So if you’ve been worried that you’re not being “social” enough because you haven’t gone to the trouble of starting a corporate blog or podcast, you can relax. There are some tools online that will help you with your everyday work and hobbies and they don’t require planning teams.

One of these is Delicious (or This is a social bookmarking site. Basically, when you find some web page online that you want to bookmark, rather than adding it to your favorites – which are stored in your computer or server – you bookmark it to your personal Delicious page. You assign it “tags” or keywords. And wa-la, you’ve dipped in your toe, and you’ll never turn back.

One advantage is that you can access your bookmarks from any computer. You can also add to your bookmarks from any computer. But this is just the beginning. There are several ways Delicious can help you in your PR work. More on that later.

Your first assignment is to set up a free Delicious account. Go to Click on “Get Started.” All you need is a username and password.

Then be sure to do the next step to installs buttons. That way, when you see a web site or blog post that you want to bookmark, you can just click a button on your browser bar. And you’re off!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Interview: Red Cross Seeks Bloggers as Volunteers

Yesterday, I had a chance to sit down with Ike Pigott, who is the communications director for the American Red Cross’s Southeast region.  He also is a blogger at Occam's RazR.

Under Ike's direction, the Red Cross is starting to use blog engines to communicate critical information to the media and the general public in the midst of a disaster situation.  And the volunteers don't have to be in the field to participate. 

Online Videos by


Shel Holtz also interviewed Ike a few days ago, so if the 3 minute video isn't enough for you, you can listen to Shel's 24-minute, in-depth conversation with Ike about how the Red Cross is embracing social media as a tool during disasters.

If you are interested in being a volunteer, leave a comment here, or e-mail me at kamichat [at] and I will get you in touch with Ike. [Disclosure: I have been a Red Cross Public Affairs volunteer since 2001].  You can also see a sample disaster page about the 2007 Tornadoes in Georgia.  The portal page, where you can check for new pages and general information is on the Red Cross Online Disaster Portal Page.

Cross posted from Communication Overtones.

tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Is Ghost-blogging OK? It Depends…

There’s been a resurgence in the debate about whether or not “ghost-blogging” is ok. Some say no because the expectations in the blogosphere are different than in other spaces. And ghost blogging is not “authentic.” Others say it either is fine now or will be soon as social media evolves.

I think the answer really is… it depends (as FIR listeners are accustomed to hearing).

At its worst, the writer is putting words into the mouth of someone. Readers are lead to believe that the thoughts are from the “blogger” when they are not. It’s like the PR person who writes a speech for a CEO and then stands in her place to deliver the speech while pretending to be the CEO. The expectation of the audience is to hear from the CEO, in this case. Not a stand in. The same could be said about the expectations of readers of blogs.

On the other hand, not everyone has time to write all their thoughts down. Not everyone has good writing skills (that’s another issue). So for someone to employ the writing skills of another person is not only fine, it’s appropriate. In this case, the writer is putting someone’s thoughts into words.

This is typically what we do in speechwriting. When I write a speech for my boss, we sit down together first and she outlines her main points and how she wants to make them. I go back and write a draft. She’ll review it and give feedback. I’ll have another go at it and then hand her the disk. She always makes a few changes from there. She could do it all herself, but she is after all a CEO with other responsibilities.

When she delivers the speech, the words are her words. The thoughts are her thoughts. The same would be true if it were a blog rather than a speech. (Though the process likely would have to be quicker.)

I also don’t think that in these cases we should demand there be a statement on the blog about who actually wrote it. I know this is another controversial point. But in a speech, the speaker never announces that he or she didn’t actually write every word even though many, many people don’t understand that there was probably a speechwriter. In public relations, you just get used to writing things and not signing your name for credit.

But when a PR person is blogging on behalf of someone else and practically has carte blanche authority to write whatever, that's another story -- and one I would have concerns about.

So I guess what I am saying is: ghost-blogging is deceptive when it is deceptive, and it’s right when it is right. Like most other ethical issues, it just depends on the situation. Sorry, no black and white rules here. That is why it is so healthy to have these discussions.

For more on the debate listen to or read the following podcasts and blog posts. They are much more eloquent than I.

Inside PR podcast episodes #59 and #60

Dan York’s Disruptive Conversations blog
“Ghost blogging and the coming end of the Golden Age of blogging and transparency”

Sallie Goetsch’s Author-ized Articles blog
"Ghostwriting Does NOT Preclude Authenticity"

Bryan Person’s blog
“PR pro blogging on client’s behalf: Where’s the disclosure?”

Mitch Joel’s Twist Image blog
“What’s Wrong With Ghost Blogging? Or Insights From Inside PR #59”
“Ghost Blogging Continued...”