After California-based KTVU posted a report on the United States Postal Service’s $2.2 million investment to participate in the National Postal Forum, some lawmakers have rushed to conclusions about the conference. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia, sent Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe a request to justify the expenses of participating in the conference while Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia, called the expenses “wasteful, irresponsible and tone-deaf.”
However, Maureen Goodson, Executive Director, National Postal Forum, highlights that the conference provides a once-a-year opportunity for the USPS to meet with its most important customers in one location.
“Everyone that comes to the meeting is invested in the mail,” Goodson says. “This is where the real dialogue about how to move the mail business forward occurs.”
That dialogue includes major companies like Hallmark, Citi, Farmers Insurance and other mailers that represented more than $22 billion in postage in 2012.
With new research that proves face-to-face collaboration fuels more ideas, it’s clear that the National Postal Forum represents even more than big business for the USPS. It also represents big brainpower.
“The Postal Service cannot miss the opportunity to meet with the industry leaders that will continue to rely on the mail as a source to grow their business,” Goodson says.
Keeping an Eye on Expenses
Goodson points out that the Postal Service has been mindful of watching their expenses. While 560 USPS executives attended NPF in 2011, that number has been reduced to just 400 this year.
“They’re only sending key employees,” Goodson says.
In addition to being selective about who attends the conference, Goodson says that USPS has made controlling expenses a top priority over the past two years. In 2011, the USPS asked for reduced government hotel rates. This means that the USPS will be paying $155 per night per room for each of its employees, a rate significantly less than the average of $260 per night that other industry attendees pay at the conference’s host hotels in San Francisco.
Understanding the Real Value of a Conference
It’s no secret that the USPS has been suffering under the weight of serious financial pressure over the past few years. However, it’s important to recognize that easing that pressure requires an investment in education - education that will help the USPS chart a viable business plan in a world that continues to change with rapidly developing digital technologies.
Is there networking? Of course. However, Goodson responded directly to lawmakers pointing fingers at spending money on “lavish trips.”
“I wouldn’t define these networking receptions as parties at all,” Goodson says. “This is a chance for the USPS to connect one-on-one with representatives who are vital to the future of mail delivery.”
That future is still taking shape. With the recent announcement to end Saturday delivery and a continuing shift to online bill payment, the USPS is counting on the NPF to help chart its course.
“The Postal Service is trying to reinvent itself,” Goodson says. “It can’t do it alone.”