Friday, October 29, 2010

Why Tomorrow's "Government Doesn't ****" Rally Is Bad For My Brand

Before I say anything, let me be clear that I support the mission of GovLoop and think it has accomplished a lot. I also appreciate GL's kind support of my writing, having featured my blogs, asking me to speak, and sponsoring a Federal Communicators Network event this summer. I am worried as I post this that I will offend people who have been good colleagues and peers for more than a year. But I am sufficiently concerned about tomorrow's rally that I feel I have to say something. Here goes.


1. The title is so offensive that I won't even repeat it. No matter how much people say bad things about federal employees, we do have a "brand" of professionalism, dignity, and respect that is undermined by language like this. It is not the norm to talk like this in a federal workplace, and it is not the norm to speak or write like this on behalf of federal employees in public.


2. The title of the rally violates a basic rule of communications. Which is to stick with the facts as neutrally as possible in order to keep the audience with you. And the reality is that the quality of our government agencies as well as the employees in them varies. Just like in the private sector. To go so far in the extreme saying how great we are almost begs for blog responses like this.


3. The rally is, from a brand perspective, affiliated "on the sidelines" with Jon Stewart's "Return to Sanity" rally. So whatever brand associations go with Stewart carry over into the GL rally. Even though the Stewart rally claims to be one of "moderation" - this word is still political discourse. I do not want the site where I blog to associate me with any particular political brand. Which leads me to my next point.


4. It is inappropriate for GL to speak, represent, or do anything on behalf of federal employees. This is not a site sponsored by the federal government. And even if it were, one of the core values of the federal government is to promote diversity and freedom of expression within the workforce. No federal employee would ever be forced to affiliate with any kind of worldview. But this rally in effect brands us. If the government wants to work on the brand of federal employees that would fall within the purview of the Office of Personnel Management or another federal agency.


5. Last but not least - the people who run this site don't actually work for the federal government. Although the founder (Steve Ressler) did at one time, this is not true anymore. They work for the private sector. This is a private sector website. It is already ambiguous who is actually participating here (feds, non feds, whatever) but to actually "brand" government on behalf of the government is just plain wrong.


I also get the feeling - and I could be wrong - that GL is milking the "government is great" angle a bit with all the publicity lately. It seems to me that the site was purer in the beginning, and now that private ownership and a profit issue are involved, the need to monetize is getting in the way of its organic, grassroots, good vibe.


They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don't mean to get heavy, but it is starting to get hot out here. The rally was meant as a good thing, but if I were in charge, I would call it off or risk offending a lot of people who would potentially be supportive of GL's worthy mission.


 (Note: GovLoop is owned by GovDelivery, which provides services to my agency. However, as always, this blog represents my own opinions alone.)


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