Most government entities don’t think of themselves as a ‘brand’.
Put in simple terms, your brand is your image. It’s not only what you say, but also the result of an ongoing interplay, or dynamic, between your output and the response you get from the public.
It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your offering – both factual and emotional. It is a set of perceptions and images that not only represent an organisation or service, but the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced.
Government creates policies with the aim to improve the everyday lives of citizens, then they announce them, the public reacts and makes up their mind – good or bad.
However, when policy isn’t communicated effectively as part of a coordinated and well managed approach, people may not understand and get confused.
Branding for government should be strategic and include an overall vision for what the departments can achieve, while forging long-term relationships with the public.
Here are the top three reasons why effective branding can be an advantage.
To establish trust
As Tom Burton of The Mandarin mentioned in a recent article, “At a time where government is learning how to engage and collaborate in the modern world, brand and reputation are everything.”
Many government entities interact directly with the wider public. This being the case, the ability to generate a sense of trust can go a very long way.
Effective branding communicates the values, beliefs and goals at the core of an organisation, thus establishing trust.
For example, when a government entity adopts cohesive and well-executed branding, the public has a much easier time understanding its goals and identifying with it. This makes public relations much easier, which is always beneficial when your sole purpose is to serve the public at an infrastructural level.
Trust is earned by doing what you say you’ll do. By consistently and conspicuously living up to what your brand promises at each and every brand interaction. Every time.
This is already being done well in the private sector – think Woolworths, Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank – who have all been named in the top 15 influential brands, but more broadly in the public space, Centrelink and Medicare which are seen as reliable and trustworthy.
Australians do not want to have to second-guess whether the messages they receive from government agencies are legitimate. Having confidence in the Medicare brand is particularly important, given the trust that people place in it.
To separate different branches
Good branding functions as a strategically-developed ‘personality’ for an organisation or business, and therefore, government branding can help eliminate any confusion that members of the public might have.
Different branches of government accomplish different things, and the right branding can make it much easier to communicate the goals and areas of expertise that belong to a certain one.
Branding is a largely visual exercise, and visuals are incredibly easy for individuals to remember and identify with.
To tie to specific campaigns
Are you launching a new public service initiative or campaign? Do you need to get the community involved in a new program?
If you are a government agency who is launching a new initiative or campaign, or building a major piece of public infrastructure, branding the program with a highly visible name, identity and brand communication style is an effective way to get your message out into the wider community.
A good example of this is the Attorney-General’s Department and their Stay Smart Online Program.
Each year, through Stay Smart Online Week, the department works in collaboration with other agencies, industry, small business operators and community groups to raise awareness about the ways people can protect themselves online. Aside from a distinctive logo, the program has a strong mission and purpose, maintains consistency in its messaging and builds strong relationships with the community.
Public service brands are also a useful community engagement tool. If you’re planning to undertake a community consultation process for a new project, which will require marketing and advertising communications to be created, then the process can be made more effective and transparent through branding.
Creating a short-term brand for the project will dramatically lift its visibility, generating the awareness and recognition for the process you are seeking. People also relate well to brands. They welcome them in every part of their lives so you’ll find people more willing to be involved in the process than if it was undertaken as part of normal government communications.
While government branding might not be something most federal employees think of right away, it can be incredibly helpful when it comes to serving the public.
Brand is about what you do and don’t do, and for government agencies it is this sort of fundamental rethinking of core purpose and roles that will ensure the public sector is a relevant and valued player in the lives of citizens.
Do you have any stories of successful branding? Let us know in the comments below.