- Intimately - by an abusive parent, trusted authority figure or romantic partner
- Professionally - at school or at work, on the grounds that you're somehow incompetent
- Structurally - by your class; either the social system in which you operate has deemed you dis-privileged (economically a failure, inferior, unworthy, criminal, mentally unstable) or super-privileged (wealthy, celebrity, politically powerful). In the former case, you're considered unworthy of an audience. In the latter, you're so worthy of an audience that communication from you is a risk that requires management
- Ideologically - you are part of a belief system in which words must be regulated, for example religion
- Officially - your job is to represent an organization, and therefore your remarks must be reviewed prior to your speaking
- Away from people who try to silence you.
- Toward those who treasure the words you have to say.
(From a round-robin discussion with colleagues - extracting some of my comments that may be useful.)
There is most definitely a sub-category of branding as a discipline that has to do with “what federal agencies can do” and even more specifically “how Congressional input affects federal agency branding.”
That said, my perspective is a little more academic…I tend to think in more conceptual terms and also look at gov branding from the perspective of government as a business. (When it is of course much more complicated than that.) But at the end of the day, we’re all dealing with the same group of people we call “the public,” and if it doesn’t work for them, it just doesn’t work.
One way the differing frameworks play out is when you define what exactly is a brand.
From an academic, conceptual point of view, that is if we’re looking at the “science” of it and not the policy, the brand is the symbol that lives in the customer’s mind when they think of you. If you have one, that is.
Meaning: It’s not necessarily what YOU say, what the law says, what the seal says, and what the name is. It is only perception.
(And the truth is, none of us live in a perfect brand world…only a work in progress.)
In any case, some thoughts about why there’s always a fracture when it comes to agreeing on the unit of the brand.
(For example, with the Amtrak crash last night, CNN is talking a lot about the “DOT” and some about the “NTSB” and not at all about “the government”…so which brand is the public expecting to see?)
1. Legislation creates new organizational units and dissolves others.
2. People use branding to stake a claim to turf.
3. It’s hard to get people to do the same thing consistently – they like to vary the communication to keep it interesting to themselves. (The audience prefers consistency, which can seem “boring” and “stifling.”)
4. Disagreement over communication methods, policies, etc. or ignorance about them leads to people going rogue.
5. Research is time-consuming, expensive, involves paperwork, etc.
6. Lack of education about brand architecture – Nabisco vs. Oreos vs. Nutter Butters etc.
7. Tendency to ask the communicators last.
8. Lack of attention to forward planning – tendency to be reactive.
FYI (as always) not speaking for my agency or any agency here.
- Take food. While it's true that a calorie is a calorie, ten minutes into Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown and you realize that a sandwich is very much a cultural production. So trying to sell it involves a hell of a lot more than simply toasting bread and loading it up with mayonnaise and meat.
- Or real estate. How big a home ought to be, what features it must have, what distinguishes luxury from vintage from the lowdown and rundown involves a whole host of social decisions. Just watch House Hunters International.
- Crisis? "Let's wait for the lawyers."
- Bad news? "It'll blow over."
- Gossip? "Just ignore that."
- Problems are denied until they become an unpleasant crisis. The prevalent belief: "out of sight, out of mind."
- Crises are ignored until they become catastrophes: "Talking about problems only makes them real."
- Great communicators, who recognize what's going on and try to moderate the effect by opening the spigot of speech, are viewed as a threat and eliminated.