Improving Internal Communications

Lisa Noyes, Supervisor, Publishing Services
Air Line Pilot,
September 2004, p.24

For more than 35 years, ALPA had an in-house printing and mailing facility, which prepared, printed, and distributed to the union’s members meeting notices and minutes; master and local executive council correspondence and newsletters; monthly statements; ballots; and correspondence from the Association’s national officers. ALPA’s Print Shop had two two-color presses; two one-color presses; a bindery section, which could fold, drill, staple, and cut to size publications; and a complete mailing section, which could stuff envelopes, prepare boxes for shipping, and affix postage to each piece. The Printing and Mailing Department handled all the publishing and distribution for as many as 50 MECs, 150 LECs, and ALPA departments, committees, work groups, and project teams.

In the latter half of the 1990s, as the Internet matured and e-mail became a normal part of most people’s lives, the Association embraced electronic distribution of information as a means of speeding up delivery and decreasing cost. ALPA’s members embraced e-distribution, also. Today more than 49,000 pilots have provided their e-mail addresses to ALPA. Of those pilots, 59 percent want to read their ALPA mail on the Association’s website,, or to receive their information in e-mail. This number continues to grow as ALPA pilots realize that they can change their mailing preferences through the website. If you’d like to change your mailing preferences, or just see what your publishing options are, log in to the website and click on the Preferences link.

As the number of members selecting electronic distribution increased, ALPA’s need to print on paper decreased, and the amount of work passing through the Association’s printing and mailing facility decreased. This created a situation in which ALPA was maintaining a very expensive facility, with equipment that was not being used as much as possible. The economics of the situation led the Association to evaluate alternatives. In January, ALPA decided to close down the printing and bindery portion of the facility and to scale back the mailing section.

Following a rigorous bidding process, most of ALPA’s publishing needs are now handled by Kelly Press, a Washington, D.C. area union printer that has served ALPA well for more than 30 years, printing Air Line Pilot plus other special publications. Kelly Press has state-of-the-art equipment and the latest proofing and ordering technology, as well as years of experience publishing union documents. Since April, Kelly Press has been printing and distributing most of ALPA’s printed material.

When ALPA’s in-house Printing and Mailing Department was finally disbanded in April, the Publishing Services Group (PSG) was created and incorporated into the Association’s Communications Department. The PSG staff of coordinators, editors, and graphic artists work directly with the MEC communications specialists and pilot communications chairmen, editors, and webmasters, as well as with other ALPA staff, to ensure that every request is designed, edited, printed, and distributed in the most cost-effective, efficient manner possible.

The PSG is ideally situated to provide complete publishing support—not just ink on paper, but also electronic publishing and CD and DVD publishing, plus evaluating and recommending new technology to speed the distribution of information to ALPA’s members. The PSG is working with Kelly Press to put the finishing touches on an electronic order placement system, which will decrease cost and lead time. ALPA is also one of Kelly Press’s first clients to use a new online proofing system, which eliminates the need for printed proofs to be distributed for approval and therefore saves time. The PSG is working with several ALPA departments to publish on CDs large documents that were traditionally printed and mailed. CD publishing results in a substantial savings in both printing and mailing costs. Publishing the 2004 Board of Directors mailings to CD has saved 25 percent over the cost of traditional printing.

Publishing Services is also involved in a major redesign of ALPA’s website, to be unveiled later this year. PSG is working hard to make it easier for ALPA members to retrieve their mail and to access needed information that is vital to their piloting profession.

First Officer Todd Insler, editor of the United Council 52 newsletter, New York Report, recently sent PSG a message saying, "Great job! You guys really help me look good, and for that I thank you." This is what ALPA’s Publishing Services Group is striving to do—to help improve a pilot group’s internal communication so that the union’s message reaches every member.