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.