The Postal Museum


For every Outreach project there is a Marketors Outreach volunteer managing it, providing advice and some skills transfer, allowing the “good cause” people to do the marketing work themselves as defined in a previously agreed Outreach marketing brief. Each Outreach project also has a “good cause” allowing the Outreach programme to help Marketors deliver one of the Marketors’ four Aims, this Aim being “To give back both financially and in-kind”. There are many different “good cause” organisations that have been or are being provided with Outreach’s pro-bono marketing support. These range across the country from very small charities to surprisingly nationally known names who all need marketing advice for their “good cause”. The example described here is The Postal Museum.   

Postal MuseumSome members of the Marketors understand that the marketing skills they have been paid to learn and apply can also have a highly beneficial effect for “good cause” organisations needing marketing improvements but having little or no funding. Outreach volunteers are prepared to give some of their time and share whatever is needed of their marketing skills to guide those working for a “good cause” or maybe more than one, depending on the volunteers’ own time constraints. Some Outreach projects can need only about ten hours involvement, while some need more time to help the “good cause”, no two projects are ever the same. But why do the Outreach volunteers keep doing the projects?

There are many individual reasons to be an Outreach volunteer. Some people like myself think that as our marketing careers give us good things, we should recognise that by giving something back. Other volunteers have said that with years in specialist marketing roles, it does them good to get out of their comfort zone, listen to those needing some help and start advising on some marketing basics that meet the needs of the “good cause” organisation. Some volunteers have found that their Outreach project activities can add value to their professional CVs, showing a better understanding of helping others with different life experiences to get good marketing results, sometimes working with no budget, just imagination. Another common comment is that Outreach volunteers can be asked to engage with an organisation and then find that their expertise is welcomed in an unusual place that is normally hidden from view, literally. Some “good cause” organisations operate from historic estates and buildings so being an Outreach volunteer really can open doors and introduce you to some very interesting people, places and marketing challenges.     

An increasing number of Outreach projects across the UK and beyond means there is always a need for more Outreach Directors geographically close to the “good cause” organisations. Please get more details from outreach@marketors.org

The Postal Museum is an Outreach project that was completed in 2017, and we are now exploring options with the Museum to move into a phase 2 where the Marketors’ Outreach team can provide some ongoing marketing support. What is The Postal Museum? I can hear some people saying. It is probably helpful to outline the reason for the Museum to put it in context especially as communication is vitally important to all Marketors.

The Postal Museum charts the history of the postal service from Henry VIII to the modern day. The Postal Museum starts its story at the point the Royal Mail was founded, in 1516, when Henry VIII knighted his Master of the Posts, Brian Tuke. Although only for the use of the monarch and his Court, Tuke had the influence and authority to establish posts in London and selected towns across the country and so built a formal mail network. Each town had to have three horses available to transport packets of royal letters and bring back news to court. Busy towns kept a special stable known as a post, ready to carry mail at a moment's notice. The new mail service gained the name we still use today - the post.

The Museum has a letter from Sir Brian Tuke to Thomas Cromwell, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, suggesting ‘that posts be better appointed, and laid in places most expedient; with the commandment to all townships in all places, on pain of life, to be in such readiness, and to make such provision of horses at all times, as no tract or loss of time be had in that behalf.’

The launch of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London brought together London's leading overseas merchants and by 1550, the City of London had its own privately funded ‘Merchant Adventurer’s Post’ communicating with traders and merchants based in continental Europe. The Museum has a letter sent from Italy to Bartholomew Corsini, a Florentine merchant based in England asking questions about shipping trunks (the old fashioned equivalent of shipping containers) to Italy via Hamburg, Augsburg, Nurnberg and Cremona. In 1619, the office of Postmaster General for Foreign Parts was created, but it was still for Royal use only. The mail service with foreign countries was very small in the 1600’s and 1700’s, by 1660 the Foreign Post Office as it was called then only had a staff of four people.

Postal MuseumIn 1635 Charles I extended the use of the King’s Posts to the public, renaming the post stables as Letter Offices. Originally, the cost of postage was paid by the person receiving the letter with the cost depending on the number of pages sent and the distance they travelled. If people had very little disposable income, the arrival of the postman could be expensive. People went to great lengths to pay as little as possible, some would write cross-ways several times on the same sheet which was harder to read but cheaper to send. Some people even concealed messages on the outside of the letter so the message could be read and the letter then handed back unopened without payment.

Date stamps, which are now known as postmarks, were first used in England. They were originally introduced because of complaints about delays to the mail. In order to manage this, Colonel Henry Bishop, Postmaster General from 1660 until 1663, introduced an inked, stamped mark in 1661 to 'put upon every letter showing the day of the month that every letter comes to the office, so that no Letter Carrier may dare to detain a letter from post to post, which before was usual'. The use of a postmark has since been duplicated across the world.

As Britain’s political and commercial interests spread across the globe, seagoing boats called packet ships were used as a secure way to deliver mail including letters and packets to and from Britain’s colonies and trading partners. Packet boats were in operation as early as the 1600’s with the first recorded route in 1660 from Harwich to Holland. The Museum holds records detailing both the movement of inland and overseas mail by sea, such as log listings, contracts by companies for the conveyance of mail, voyage records and packet boat reports.

By 1670, six designated, national post roads between London and major towns or seaports carried mail in and out of London. At a more local level, within the City of London, merchants used a privately funded Penny Post system set up in 1680, which would deliver letters by hand to recipients at home, at work or even in a coffee house. Merchants loved the convenience of the private Penny Post service in London. However, for reasons best known to himself the King's brother forced its closure in 1682, but then reopened the service as part of the national mail service.

The Postal Museum has centuries of communication history to tell and is certainly a “good cause”. The Museum is the UK’s guardian and custodian of postal history, continuing to collect material to this day. From iconic red post and phone boxes, letters and stamps to the less well-known stories of piracy, rockets and even an escaped lioness, The Postal Museum tells the story of a network that changed the way we all communicate. If you want to discover more please go to https://www.postalmuseum.org/ to book some admission tickets.

In 2013 the Museum was essentially an archive with no more than 3,000 visitors a year, the majority of which were researchers seeking out specific documents and artefacts for another purpose. A decision was made to make much more of what the Museum was holding in trust for the nation which lead to a Past Master of the Marketors, David Pearson, being invited to a presentation there in 2014. The Museum’s objective was to move to a new site to, among other things, modernise the archive facilities, attract many more of the general public of all ages and turn it into a visitor experience including a subterranean ride on the Post Office’s century-old miniature railway, the Mail Rail.

When the central London streets in Victorian times started to get heavy traffic and became gridlocked from horse and oxen drawn carts, wagons, delivery coaches, omnibuses and single horse taxi cabs it dramatically slowed down the movement of letters and parcels. The practical solution was to dig by hand and build a reduced size, underground tube system so letters and parcels could still be speedily moved between sorting offices and railway terminals while the traffic above could still be stationary. Yes, the Museum estate incorporates some miles of original underground tracks, complete with engines and wagons, now known as the Mail Rail. Remember how being part of the Outreach programme can open otherwise closed doors? One of the Museum’s visitor attractions is to ride on the Mail Rail away from the Museum to visit a former postal station with underground access and back again.        

Working in step with the Museum’s timescales, Past Master David Pearson offered the services of the Outreach programme which was accepted and put together a small team of Marketors to produce an Outreach brief to define the Outreach contribution. Then he and the team provided marketing support to the Museum, mostly channelled through the Museum’s now Head of Communications and Marketing, Harry Huskisson. The Outreach project lasted about six months with each of the Marketors team adding their own expertise to support Harry who gratefully took advice on many different aspects of marketing including creating a total Museum re-launch brief, considering different options for marketing activities and doing ongoing audience research to help make better business decisions.

On the first day of the re-launch, the Museum sold 40,000 tickets and was effectively sold out for the first six months. Then an additional 10,000 tickets were released via the website and they were sold within a week. The first year visitor target was 185,000 (compared previously with less than 3,000 per year), the first year’s visitor attendance was over 198,000. The campaign to launch the Museum won the industry award for Best Marketing Campaign at the 2018 Museum + Heritage Awards.

When asked what he had got out of his working with the Marketors Outreach team, Harry Huskisson said “I didn’t know what to expect meeting people from the Marketors but they were so welcoming. It was fun working with them and I felt I was in a very safe environment to bounce round ideas without fear that they would be seen as wrong. My background had been in public affairs and PR rather than pure marketing so there was a lot of jargon flying around when talking and meeting with agencies – it is easy to get blindsided by agency speak. I was already confident in what we needed to do to successfully launch the museum, but discussing and debating these strategies with the Marketors helped hone what was truly important and gave me the self-confidence to negotiate with agencies and preserve the museum’s interests. Plus, knowing I had the support of some highly successful and influential marketers gave me the confidence to clearly articulate my vision at Board level and win support across the organisation. As well as the support given by the wider Marketors team, David Pearson introduced me to Gerry Wright, who offered me some personal mentoring which I found incredibly valuable. In the end, we made a comparatively small marketing budget go a long way”.     

Any member of the Company interested to find out more about giving back in-kind, and probably discovering their own reasons why it is a very good thing to do, please just email outreach@marketors.org

This article has incorporated content from a blog by David Pearson and http://500years.royalmailgroup.com/gallery/