How Royal Mail PR Delivers the Goods

Where would we be without the Royal Mail? Providing a universal postal service to more than 29 million addresses since 1516, the iconic brand is as deeply ingrained in British culture as tea and scones.

However, it’s been a tough few years for the group. Not only has it had to contend with disruptions to services due to Covid-19, it’s also had to manage the shift from letters to packages due to the boom in online shopping.

Fortunately, the Royal Mail PR team is no stranger to managing difficult situations. They know how to use first-class PR to turn negative press into positive.

Let’s take a look at some of their most memorable PR successes. Plus a couple of occasions where they inadvertently dropped the ball.

First Class Royal Mail Public Relations

London 2012

Despite not being an official sponsor of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Royal Mail Group fared well in the PR stakes.

To commemorate the Games, they produced a series of special edition Gold Medal stamps, featuring the likes of Sir Chris Hoy (who took gold in the men’s Keirin), and Ellie Simmonds (who won the 400m freestyle swimming gold in the Paralympics).

The Royal Mail PR team worked around the clock to ensure the stamps and PR materials were ready within two hours of a win. They also opened more than 500 post office branches each Sunday during the Games, so the stamps could be sold the day after a gold medal victory.

To really drive home their support for our country’s top athletes, they also painted post boxes gold in the hometowns of the winning athletes, within 24 hours of a victory.

The British public loved these PR stunts. And, on more than one occasion, the Royal Mail had more mentions on Twitter than the official sponsors themselves.

As a result, they were the only non-sponsor invited to join the Team GB victory parade in London.

Now that’s what we call PR success.

Find out more about the power of PR stunts. Read: What Are PR Stunts, Anyway?

PR Takeaway:

When it comes to PR, timing is everything. If you see an opportunity, you need to think and act fast. This Royal Mail public relations campaign wouldn’t have worked if the brand hadn’t been so quick to act on the momentum of the Games.

Also, never underestimate the power of national pride. With the ability to bring people together and create a positive mood across the country, an event like the Olympic Games is one PR bandwagon you definitely want to jump on.

Mr Men anniversary: Nostalgia is a PR winner

There’s nothing quite like nostalgia to pull at the heartstrings. Why? Because humans are motivated by emotions. And, according to Psychology Today, nostalgia is an overwhelmingly positive emotion.

The Royal Mail PR team took full advantage of this in 2016, by releasing a set of commemorative Mr. Men and Little Miss character stamps to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the much-loved series of books.

Phillip Parker of Royal Mail said of the stamps: ‘The Mr. Men and Little Miss characters are a worldwide phenomenon. People identify with the different character traits. We hope these stamps will brighten up the process of giving and receiving mail.’

The stunt delighted the public and press alike, generating nostalgic chatter on social media and headlines in all the major newspapers.

Realising they were on to a winner, Royal Mail continued to release commemorative stamps to honour iconic British characters. The latest was a set of Dennis the Menace stamps released in 2021 to celebrate 70 years of the mischievous cartoon character.

PR Takeaway:

Nostalgia inspires consumers to spend money as it provides an immediate return in the form of happy memories and comfort.

Nostalgia marketing campaigns have grown increasingly popular in recent years, as brands discover the value of connecting with their customers on a more emotional level.

Whether you intend to make people smile, bring a tear to their eye, or remind them of a simpler time, if you can find a creative way to tie your brand in with a positive past memory, you’re one step closer to turning your customers into loyal brand ambassadors.

Festive PR Fun: Singing post boxes

Sometimes all you need from a PR campaign is to spread a little joy. And this is exactly what the Royal Mail PR team did in 2018 with their singing Christmas post boxes.

Custom post boxes were placed in busy cities across the country, including London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Belfast, to bring some festive magic to the mundane task of posting Christmas cards. Featuring movement sensors that triggered festive tunes, including the ring of sleigh bells, and a special festive greeting from Santa himself, this stunt was pure PR gold.

Simon Baker, operations director at Royal Mail, said: ‘Delivering Christmas is our priority this December. In the process, we enjoy any way we can to add a little extra fun to posting Christmas cards.’

Members of the public posted pictures and videos of themselves enjoying the musical post boxes all over social media, and the PR stunt was covered by a plethora of newspapers and news sites, from the Guardian, to BBC London News.

PR Takeaway:

While it may have seemed like a bit of festive fun, this Royal Mail PR campaign ‘delivered’ for the Royal Mail.

First and foremost, it got people excited about the prospect of posting a Christmas card, which is quite an achievement in today’s digital world, where people are much more likely to send a Happy Christmas text, e-card, or post a festive social media video than walk to a post box.

Also, by encouraging people to share on social media, Royal Mail was able to engage with the tech-savvy Gen Z demographic, who may not have previously had a relationship with the brand.

Want to learn more about how to use Christmas to your PR advantage? Read: Six Cracking Christmas PR Campaigns.

Black History: Celebrating diversity

In October 2020, Royal Mail unveiled four black post boxes around the UK, to mark Black History Month.

Each post box featured a notable black Briton or a piece of work they created, along with a unique QR code. To find out more about the famous figures within the black community, members of the public could scan the code with their phones.

When unveiling the bespoke post boxes, Royal Mail’s head of diversity and inclusion, Peter de Norville, said: ‘Black History Month is a great opportunity to celebrate the contributions that black people have made to this country over many generations. We are also using it as an opportunity to celebrate the vital work that our black employees do throughout the nation, from the mailbag to the meeting room.’

All the major UK newspapers covered the story, including The Independent, The Express, as well as the BBC and ITV News.

With statistics showing that those from a BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) background were being disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, this was the perfect PR campaign to portray their brand as an inclusive and diverse one that takes care of their employees.

PR Takeaway:

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, businesses can’t afford to stay silent on political and social issues. In fact, a whopping 70% of consumers say they want brands to take a stand on important issues.

To ensure your company stands out, you need to find creative ways to communicate your beliefs. Just like Royal Mail did with their black post boxes.

If you’re a large and well-established corporation like the Royal Mail, you may want to think about donating money to a charity, doing some campaigning, or raising awareness of a cause through an advert or PR campaign.

Royal Mail Public Relations: Unable to Deliver

Even the most experienced brands make mistakes from time to time. And the Royal Mail is no exception.

Let’s take a look at a couple of PR storms this well-known brand has had to weather over the years.

The Flag Fiasco

Events such as the Olympic Games offer the perfect opportunity to throw your support behind your country and nab a bit of PR. But be warned: untold damage can be caused to your brand if it’s not handled correctly.

Take Euro 2020 for example. The Royal Mail Group were savaged for banning 100,000 postal workers from flying England flags on their vans, lorries and trollies.

At the time, the Royal Mail defended their decision by saying: ‘Such items can pose a potential hazard to other road users if they are lost when the vehicle is moving. Road safety for our drivers and other road users is our top priority.’

But the public and media didn’t buy it. They were outraged by the decision, criticising the Royal Mail for their ‘woke attitude’.

However, football fans were slightly placated when the brand tweeted an image of a parcelled football labelled ‘HOME’, showing that sometimes simplicity works best.

PR Takeaway:

A vital lesson in PR is that every action has a reaction.

The Royal Mail PR team should have predicated the backlash and had a plan in place to deal with it. Instead, they chose to stand by their decision and suffer the consequences.

If your brand has received negative press or bad reviews, be sure to stay on top of the situation. Keep informed about your reputation by checking your social mentions, using a review monitoring platform such as Reputology, and sign up for Google Alerts to keep on top of your brand presence.

No-one is immune to mistakes. It’s how you deal with them that sets you apart from your competitors.

Dealing with negative press can be a real nightmare. Discover how to keep your reputation intact. Read: Online Reputation Management: What Is It? And Why Is It Important?

Christmas Chaos

The Christmas of 2020 was a challenging time for the Post Office, with the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on their delivery processes. Not only was there a huge surge in online shopping as consumers were unable to visit the shops, but social distancing and isolation periods meant the Post Office didn’t have enough staff to handle the demand.

Despite Royal Mail taking on an extra 33,000 workers to cope with the increase in demand (there were an estimated 200 million more parcels than the previous year), they still fell behind on deliveries.

At the time, the brand took to Twitter to say: ‘Despite our best efforts, exhaustive planning and significant investment in extra resource, some customers may experience slightly longer delivery timescales than our usual service standards.’

But frustrated shoppers and businesses weren’t impressed. They complained to the media, who proceeded to publish the comments online.

PR Takeaway:

Although Royal Mail Group failed to deliver all the letters and packages in time for Christmas, they did keep their customers informed about the situation. The company even created a new section on their website purely for this purpose.

This is a crucial part of crisis management. Customers don’t want to feel ignored or pushed aside by their preferred brands.

Royal Mail Group was also quick to apologise for the inconvenience, which can go a long way to appease disgruntled customers.

In fact, a sincere and timely apology can completely transform public opinion of a brand. Remember when the CEO of Uber issued a thoughtful public apology in The Evening Standard when they had their licence revoked in the capital? No-one could have predicted how effective that simple act would be in restoring trust in the global business.

Read more about Uber PR and the struggles they faced in: Uber PR: Why It’s Not Been An Easy Ride.

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