Saturday, March 2, 2013

Clearing Up Some Misconceptions About Government Branding

Government vs. Private Sector Branding
In the private sector you build brands to make money. The means of making money is to establish awareness, trust, loyalty and preference by the consumer - to the point where they would pay more for your product than a no-name equivalent.
In the government you engage in branding so as to effectively inform and explain. This should result in increased understanding, participation, compliance with the law, more effective recruitment, etc.
Metric for Results
The ultimate metric for branding in government is not money but rather that it serves the citizens' needs.
3 Kinds of Government Communication
Communication to Inform & Explain
Within the U.S., federal agencies may engage in communication to explain. It's OK for the communication to be memorable and engaging, but there are limits. Agencies may not engage in three kinds of communication:
* Self-promotion 
* Politically partisan
* Hidden messages
Public Diplomacy
Overseas, where it is in the U.S. interest to combat misinformation and promote positive relationships between ourselves and the world, the law recognizes a legitimate purpose to persuasive communication. This is public diplomacy and it is regulated by the Smith-Mundt Act,
The irony of Smith-Mundt, particularly in the age of the Internet, that it was designed to combat anti-U.S. propaganda with the facts, yet unless 12 years have passed, domestic distribution is not allowed (a 2012 attempt to modernize the law was not enacted).
Military Operations
Further along the spectrum psychological operations (PSYOPS), a.k.a. "military information support operations," is used by the military as a nonviolent tool of combat. Joint Publication 3-13.2, defines this as:
"Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals in a manner favorable to the originator’s objectives. Also called MISO. (Approved for incorporation into JP 1-02.)"
Why Branding and Propaganda Cannot Coexist Anymore
In the past it was acceptable and even expected to tell a one-sided story. Today the facts are available anyway and the customer is talking back. That's why it is more "effective and efficient" to simply explain things as they are, and show your audience your reasoning. You can't control what they think, but you can show respect for the audience's intelligence. By being straightforward and owning your story, you show leadership. The organization appears as one that is credible, engaged, and effective at doing the job it is supposed to do.

*As always all opinions are my own.