The U.S. Postal Service this week perhaps unwittingly gave birth to a brand-new category of public relations. We might call it “postal relations” or “stamp leadership,” but whatever term emerges, I can hear the gears cranking away in the minds of PR account executives all over the country.
This new branch of our profession stems from the Postal Service’s decision to drop its rule that people could not appear on postage stamps until at least five years after their death. Beginning next year, even living persons can be honored with their image on a stamp. So, of course, public relations practitioners will be looking for ways to get the visages of their client CEOs or their rock-star influencers stuck onto envelopes. This promises to be quite a competition, the ultimate award submission. Those who win gain some measure of immortality, at least in the collections of philatelists.
The question, of course, will be, “How do we succeed?” What criteria will persuade the Postal Service to choose one famous entrepreneur or political leader over another? Apparently a Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee recommends stamp subjects to the Postmaster General. I feel a bit sorry for this obscure group (which sounds too much like Garrison Keillor’s Ketchup Advisory Board) that is certain to become the target for lobbying efforts of oversized proportions.
If the USPS decision is likely to raise a flap over who should get stuck, it may also produce the benefit of causing every famous and would-be-famous individual in America to consider how they might shape their future actions to make themselves more stamp-worthy.
Will members of Congress suddenly become more cooperative and altruistic?
Will business persons begin donating more to community groups and charities?
Will some Hollywood stars and recording artists stop being just plain weird?
Who knows? What is important is that each of us understands how we should be guiding our own lives and supporting our communities so that we may become stamp-worthy for stamp-worthiness’ sake, even if no one nominates us to the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee.
-- Steve Friedman is the director of marketing communications at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley.