Darris McNeely talks with Richard Kennebeck about attending the recent National Postal Forum and how what he learned improves the church's literature mailing process.
[Darris McNeely] Welcome to Inside United. This is Darris McNeely, an associate media producer here at United Church of God office in Milford. I’m talking today with Richard Kennebeck, our office manager, also the director of our information technology department here in the office. Richard, you’ve just been down to Nashville, TN. You’d gone down for the National Postal Forum annual convention, and come back and yesterday you were giving a report on this to the staff here, as to why you go and the purpose of it, and the benefits that the United Church of God obtains from your going there. So perhaps you could share about what it is, and why you go.
[Richard Kennebeck] Thank you, Darris. Well, I’ve been going – myself or other staff within the office have been going – to the National Postal Forum for about twelve years. We began attending, we saw the – quite a few years ago, because we saw the impact it might have on our internal mailing of the literature which we send out free to all of our readers. And over the years we’ve been able to bring in many new advancements in technology to our mailing area, as well as save a significant amount of money for the work. So we’ve always found them to be very beneficial to the work. It’s the National Postal Forum.
[Darris] Is that something connected with the United States Postal Service, or a separate entity?
[Richard] The – it’s a separate entity, but the Post Office is very involved in it. So the Postmaster General is there and gives keynote addresses, as well as many of the other vice presidents of the various areas of the Post Office, as well as many industry-leading, both in the mailing area as well as even people like Hewlett-Packard and IBM, will sometimes be there. So it’s mainly for and provided by people within the industry, but the Post Office is very involved.
[Darris] And it’s for businesses that are doing a lot of intensive mailing of printed material, right?
[Richard] It’s mostly for printed, but you have people that are called lettershop, those that are actually doing mailings for other people, as far as a large group of the marketing area. Got a lot of marketers that show up there. About 3,500 attendees to it. About 110 different exhibitors come to it.
[Richard] And we’ve got about 120 different seminars or classes that take place during that time, also.
[Darris] All right. It’s connection to the United Church of God, the work we do out of this building here – we obviously are mailing a lot of magazines, booklets, letters. What are the benefits that you have found for you and other personnel going to this forum year by year, to the church in terms of what we do here?
[Richard] Well, each year that we come back, we try to quantify, why are we going? Does it save us money? Are we able to learn new technology? Are we able to do things quicker, more efficiently? And over the years, especially at the beginning, we would actually come back and quantify the dollar amount that we were able to save. And each year for the first five years, we were able to pick up information that saved us $10,000 during each one of those final years. It’s a fair amount of savings. It provides us – also, we’ve found ways of doing things faster, more efficiently, and provide better service.
[Darris] Which saves on our labor costs.
[Richard] It saves significantly on our labor cost. We send out more than, in our literature each week, we send out more than 7,000 pieces internally within the home office. That doesn’t involve the Bible Course or any of the Beyond Today magazines that we send out, as well as just our normal office material that we send out. So if we can save even ten cents per product, we end up saving a significant amount.
[Darris] So even with the digital age we’ve all moved into, we are still mailing out – and other businesses are, too – a lot of what is called “snail mail”, printed material, through the Postal Service and via other means to people around the world. And that impacts us, doesn’t it?
[Richard] It impacts us a great amount. Mail still continues to be an avenue that should be part of every corporation’s mix of how they promote their product and such.
[Darris] And our product of course is the gospel.
[Richard] And our product is the gospel of the kingdom. And we want to be able to promote that in as many different ways as we can, effectively and as inexpensively as we can. And mail is just part of that. The mail should link us into the many other aspects that we have – the internet, TV, our personal appearance campaigns – so these all link together. And mail has still of an important part.
[Darris] Was there anything that you saw this year that you came back with that may have a direct application for how we proclaim the gospel and how we engage people with the message of the kingdom of God?
[Richard] Well, one of the premier directions of this year’s National Postal Forum was connecting mail to digital. So part of what we looked at, or what was shown in many of the different sessions that we went to, was how can we link the mail that you receive, or we send out, to the internet, to other digital things – to your cell phone, to your computer, to your tablet? And some of those are things like – where you could actually hover your cell phone over top of a mail piece and it would bring up a advertisement or a movie concerning that piece.
[Darris] So they’re viewing that on the internet through their smart phone, but they’re accessing it through a printed hardcopy.
[Richard] Exactly, through like a postcard or a letter that we would send. So they see the postcard, they look at it, they get interested, they can immediately link – just like you would actually in an email, where you might click on a link in an email – using your cell phone, you can just hover over top of that piece and then get more information from the internet, which we then can invite them to a personal appearance campaign, invite them to another or to order another piece of literature from us, to maybe view a Beyond Today program. So we’ve got many different avenues there that we can link the two together and provide a experience that builds one upon the other.
[Darris] Are you looking at the Postal Service seeking ways to survive? We all know that there’s been a sea change in mailing, with email, instant messaging, and the digital revolution. Are we looking at – is this a path that’s going to stick, or is it an effort to still remain relevant on the part of the Postal Service and other mailers? How do you see that?
[Richard] It’s actually both. I mean, it’s a way of being relevant and what they’re trying to do is connect the whole arena of products. They’re trying to connect the physical with the internet, with the digital. And actually, over the last five years, a lot of mail has actually remained fairly static as far as the volume in the Post Office. They’re still having some challenges, but they don’t see growth continuing to fall. First class mail is – that’s your typical, like, bills and things like that. But marketing mail is not falling. It has begun to level off and now they’re looking towards building an environment that includes the mail –
[Darris] The web.
[Richard] – the web, the internet, TV, and various other products. So it’s an exciting future that mail has, but the excitement really is that it’s connecting all these different available ways of preaching the gospel together into a single way of seeing it. So you get multiple different ways of touching that gospel.
[Darris] And it’s something that we have to, as a church, continue to stay abreast of in order to be current and use our resources efficiently and effectively in order to engage people, reach them with a message of the gospel, so.
[Richard] And that’s the key – engagement.
[Darris] That is, yeah. Well, I appreciate your being with us and I know that our listeners will appreciate understanding that we are continuing to seek, here in the office, improved ways, more efficient ways to effectively communicate with people, as well as to use the physical financial resources that we have in mailing, labor costs, and everything else. It does take laborers to work in the field and to get the message out. Richard, I appreciate your being with us today.
[Richard] Thank you, Darris.
[Darris] And I hope that all of you have enjoyed this. Thanks for joining us on Inside United. Come back again soon for more.