Right now government has a bit of a brand problem in that people think we're not only lazy, but a bit crazy as well. (Or maybe just dysfunctional.) After all a normal organization, confronted by the threat of collapse, would fight for its own survival. Whereas we seem only to eat our own.
What most people don't understand is that 1) government workers actually work pretty hard and care a lot, too and 2) the dysfunction that you see is caused primarily by passionate ideological differences about how best to help our country prosper.
Perhaps the worst brand problem government has is the perception that we "live off the people." This one has got to go. For again, the reality is that we don't really have an effective metric for social stewardship - or at least not one that is clearly visible and understandable to all. Meaning, we don't really know when we're winning, except that we can talk about what percentage of money goes directly to operations as opposed to overhead (a metric offered by Roy Luebke that makes a lot of sense to me.)
This isn't the place to offer branding techniques to the government. It's all pretty obvious stuff, it's findable anywhere, and so I'm not going to waste time on it other than to emphasize: Your brand is the impression that OTHER PEOPLE have of you, not what you tell them, and in a social media society all you can do is try to participate influentially in the conversation.
Moving on to a more direct solution that could not only help government recover its credibility, but actually help solve the problems we face concerning the economy and realize the President's vision of a more broadly participatory democracy: Get great brands, themselves, involved.
Here are 10 such brands - there are of course many more - that can be instrumental in helping government recover, and some specific and simple ways they can do so. What's critical in each case, though, is that the brands remain nonpartisan facilitators of a conversation rather than quietly taking sides:
1. Facebook: Similar to group pages, set up "issue" pages, where people have an opportunity to "like" an issue (deem it important) and contribute their thoughts via wall posts.
2. Google: The possibilities are really endless when it comes to Google because this brand takes searchability and collaboration to a whole new level. Just a few ideas here: Use a shared Google Doc for brainstorming. Use a shared Google Projects site to show the steps toward accomplishing a specific policy goal. Have leaders share items or whole reading lists via Google Reader so that the public can follow their thinking. Set up a Google Voice number where the public can leave messages with their viewpoints on specific issues. Etc.
3. Starbucks/Dunkin' Donuts/Panera: Use those long wooden tables where people study to host community conversations about important topics. When times get tough, those conversations can lead to self-help groups where people help each other through tough economic times by helping each other out. For example, community potluck dinners can be scheduled; babysitting groups that enable mothers who can't otherwise afford childcare to go to work; action planning around public transportation; etc.
4. Amazon.com/Walmart: How about a promotion where an important book is made available at a discount price to encourage the nation to read about critical topics of interest? Or they could organize food drives in which people send or donate food items to a central distribution warehouse, and then they ship food to those in need?
5. Microsoft/McDonald's/Coca-Cola: Bill Gates is pioneering the science of technology for developing countries, primarily by helping them fight disease. McDonald's knows how to feed people cheaply. Coca-Cola understands how to reach anyone, anytime, anywhere with an appealing global brand. What if these three brands teamed up to develop mass-market solutions to pressing public problems that can be delivered more cheaply than government would? Three prime examples: preventive healthcare by machine (e.g. automated blood pressure check); food, shelter, and safe public restrooms for the homeless.
Great mass-market brands have the ability to unite people, organize them, and serve them efficiently - bringing them joy. If government were to think like a brand, and team up with great brands, all of us would reap the profits - empowering citizens and making this country happier, healthier, wealthier and wiser overall. Using difficult times as an inspiration point to think bigger and go beyond. Truly there are no limits, except in the mind.
Have a great day everyone, and good luck!
Image source here