Branding in the Public Sector and You

Branding in the Public Sector and You

I came across this interesting synopsis of branding in government (emphasis mine):

“Branding is a shortcut to people’s understanding,” Prince explains. “You don’t have to start from scratch with a concept or idea. In government, it is important that communications get through to people and brands are a part of that. Governments have realized the need to focus communications and marketing efforts in terms of consistency of message. They are looking at the private sector and the notion of branding to help them out.”

I’ve been thinking about communication through story quite a bit recently, as it’s the most engaging way for me to communicate ideas—increasingly what my business seems to be about—in an engaging manner. Branding as “a shortcut to people’s understanding” is very similar, sharing the same methodology with storytelling but emphasisizing something else: inducing a new behavior in the audience, for the benefit of someone else. It’s a form of targeted storytelling.

Storytelling by design is slightly different, but maybe not in any meaningful way. The use of “story as a design element” presumes we do want to effect some change in the audience to benefit someone else. However, that someone else could be one of many things. For example:

  • benefit the storyteller — the storyteller is raised in the eyes of the listening audience by virtue of telling a good story about himself.

  • benefit the audience — the story imparts knowledge and information that helps the audience live life a little better (or at least be a little less bored).

  • benefit the storyteller & audience — a direct connection is made between storyteller and audience allows both parties to understand how to work together.

  • benefit a third party — the story gives life to the exploits of someone or something (an idea, perhaps) that everyone feels a connection to.


p>All four scenarios can work in the case of branding:

  • Telling people how great you/your product is, so they want to buy into you/it.
  • Giving your audience information about how to live life better. And isn’t it nice that BrandXYZ told you about it?
  • Telling the audience how BrandXYZ came to be, how it shares the same values that you do, and that you can therefore count on them to deliver what you need.
  • Being the messenger, telling the audience about someone or something that’s coming that will affect us all. We should be ready. And BrandXYZ supports this message.

The article also touches upon the infrastructure required to launch a branding initiative:

“There’s a whole educational process required before you can even start contemplating branding as such,” Jurkovic continues. “They need to understand 360 alignment. You then need complete senior management commitment (and that means people like deputy ministers need to be driving the branding effort). You need a strong policing and monitoring effort so it is properly implemented, and you may need to create an infrastructure to administer the brand.”

As I think about my own “personal branding” efforts I have to ask myself: do I have these elements in place? What is “360 alignment” in the context of my single-person practice? Am I really driving my branding effort, or am I going through the motions? Am I even capable of monitoring its use and reinforcing my brand?

I feel a little crawly thinking about branding in my own context, but I think it’s a necessary evil: if you want people to come to you because you are YOU, you need to effectively get the story out there in a way that makes the benefits clear, so they will work with you. Otherwise, you’re just another commodity worker, easily replaced with someone with the same list of skills charging half the rate.


  1. Alvin 18 years ago

    I’ve been thinking alot about branding lately, because

    1) I feel my Life Coaches Blog isn’t uniquely brandable enough (the term ‘life coaches’ is just far too generic).

    2) Branding seems to be an essential step of blogging success too (witness the many caucasians using their last names because it’s more unique, while you and I, asians both, share surnames with thousands of others).

    Isn’t blogging the ultimate example of your branding through story idea? Through a blog, I get involved with a person’s story, professional and personal, their thoughts, beliefs, ideas, likes and dislikes, skills and weaknesses, for months, sometimes years at a time.

    It’s almost like I know you!

    And I can attest that it works for the best of us, the 37 signals team, 9rules, heck, I even want to switch domain name registars because I read GoDaddy’s blog!


  2. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Hey Alvin!

    If it helps, your life coach blog is the only one I know of :-) I think you’re right about the blogging being the ultimate example of branding through story…I didn’t make that connection! Duh! Maybe I was thinking of it more in the context of how to make it into a process, or something of quite evident value to people seeking design work. The thoughts are still quite raw. I think I’m at the stage now that it’s time to lay some process done.

    One thing I’m wondering is how important name is compared to frequency of imprint. Alvin Soon + Life Coach seems a lot clearer than Dave Seah + Better Living Through New Media, or Dave Seah + A Bunch Of Stuff I Write. So although your blog name seems generic to you, I think it’s also readily memorable for what it IS about. Just a thought.

  3. Alvin 18 years ago

    Hmmm…that’s an interesting thought…thanks! :)