To create successful brands, companies spend countless hours trying to define how they wish to be perceived. Public-sector agencies should have the same goal.
Building a brand allows a public-sector organization to establish a good reputation — a valuable asset in times of crisis and in today’s digital age, when misinformation runs rampant. While agencies don’t sell or promote products, they offer crucial services that deserve the same exposure and outreach.
Here are three ways that public-sector organizations can make branding part of their overall communication strategies:
Everyone with a smartphone can now be a messenger, for better or worse. As a result, residents receive daily updates about their communities but often don’t know how to confirm that information. This is where the importance of public-sector agencies building their brands comes into play.
Beyond a logo, an organization’s brand includes its name, packaging, website and social media. Its brand also extends to the overall experience the public has when interacting with the agency’s services, and lets people know they can trust the agency as a reliable source of information.
After all, taxpayers are a public-sector agency’s consumers. Its marketing materials and online presence should represent the services the agency provides, so people know what the organization has to offer. If not, the public-sector agency needs to rethink its brand.
First and foremost, an organization’s brand should be recognizable and considered reliable and trustworthy. Whether issuing emergency alerts or sending out notices about fee increases, the agency’s materials should build trust with the intended audience so they’re never confused about the source of the information.
People should recognize an agency’s brand when they see it on billboards and street corners, or at their local post office. That way, they’ll know what to look for when they need reliable information. They’ll also recognize that information when it comes straight from the authoritative voice of the agency itself.
Such brand-name recognition and trust are especially important in times of crisis, when rumors can create mass confusion. The public will know where to get accurate information that dispels its fears and doubts. But building a trusted brand requires cohesiveness.
When assessing its brand, a public-sector agency needs to take a full snapshot. Does the agency have a vision? What is the agency’s mission statement? What kind of personality does the brand have? Is it serious, like a law enforcement agency — or more playful, like a park and recreations agency?
Once the agency’s brand has been assessed, the key is to keep it consistent and cohesive. For example, the logo and color scheme should be used in all of the brand’s materials, with the same tone of voice. The agency’s website and social media accounts should likewise have a consistent look.
Along with helping to build a solid brand and the trust that comes with it, consistent branding also inspires public loyalty to the information that public-sector communicators work hard to give people every day.
So, if you are looking to build a solid brand and earn the trust of residents, make sure your visual representation of it is consistent across the board and will help others learn to connect with the brand when they see its services, alerts and initiatives.
Own the brand’s authoritative voice.
Unlike public companies, public-sector organizations are owned by the government, giving them the advantage of a built-in authoritative voice. Public-sector agencies should use this opportunity to define how they wish to be perceived and to build a brand based on their promise to the public they serve.
To be successful, a public-sector agency’s brand package — including its logo, mission statement and visuals — should match the services it provides. To communicate with the public effectively, PR professionals have a duty to own the brand’s authoritative voice and to study how the public engages with the brand.
This requires a look at the data of how your community perceives your agency and also work with staff internally to build a brand that is embodied by all when making contact with the public. To see whether the brand’s efforts are hitting the mark, public sector PR professionals can check the agency’s ratings on Facebook and Yelp.
As communications professionals working for public-sector agencies, we must lead efforts to build trustworthy and cohesive brands. We must also ensure that our internal teams value our brand visions — and most important, that the public we serve finds our brands reliable.
About the Author
Brenda Duran is a strategic communications executive for the LA County Board of Supervisors.