Does Your Agency Have A Brand? – Plus Your Weekend Reads!

Branding matters. When you think of AMC, you think of movie theaters and popcorn. When you think of IKEA, you think easy to assemble furniture. When you think of Amazon, you think of online shopping.

But when you think of government, is there a brand? What about at the agency level? Is there a brand for the Surface and Transportation Board? 

We know one of the biggest drivers of employee satisfaction is mission, but do you identify with the mission of your agency? Do you even know your mission statement? Is the mission part of your agency's brand. 

Tim McManus is the Vice President for Education and Outreach at the Partnership for Public Service. He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINISIDER program that the government has a serious branding problem. 

"A government brand means being able to communicate who you are and who you want to be. For federal agencies we need to stop and think beyond the mission statement. Agencies should think, 'What is the thing that my agency does really well?'" said McManus.

McManus said having a good, strong brand is important today for two reasons:

  1. "It reinforces with your agency why they went to work at the agency and why they want to continue to work at the agency."

  2. "While hiring may be much more limited than it has been in the past, agencies are still going to hire. The need for them to actually portray who they are and who they want to be and the value that they bring is one of those key components that folks are going to be looking for in trying to decide, 'Do I go to work for this agency.'"

Why is the government bad at branding?

"Let’s face it, feds have gotten beat up over the past couple of years. I think part of that problem is that a lot of Americans don’t understand what government is doing. Why? Because we can’t tell them in a quick and understandable way what we are doing. So we turn to our mission statements and those sounds hollow in a lot of ways," said McManus. 

Some of these mission statements are paragraphs long - why is that a problem?

"We had a workshop where we talked about branding your agency for job and internship opportunities. We really looked at the issue like a funnel, we talked about broad branding concepts initially and then worked our way down to if you are trying to seek potential candidates. One of the agency’s that came in and talked about some of their efforts was the Department of Interior. They have almost adopted the motto of a picture is worth a thousand words. Rather than try to portray who they are, not just for job seekers, but for the American public, ultimately the Department of Interior has said, ‘We are the caretaker of America’s public land.’ If you step back and think, so what? But through a lot of social media outlets, they have been able to bring America’s public lands to life. Through a series of photographs, the photographs depict what the Department is directly involved in. For the past two years on Valentine’s Day where anybody can submit their videos of engagement moments on federal lands.

"They have been able to portray through photos and social media to the American public that this isn’t just some words on a page. But this is things that matter and things people actually care about," said McManus. 

What's the power of a positive brand?

"One of my staff members has a roommate who has been following DOI on a lot of social platforms. The woman actually said, that if she ever actually found a job within DOI for an accountant, she would jump at it because she has completely bought into their mission and what they want to accomplish. She has bought into DOI’s brand of protecting America’s land," said McManus. 

  • Key Insights: "Too often what we do as agencies, is we get a mission statement and we say that’s who we are and that's who we want to be. That may be our mission statement, but we need ways to bring it to life, so that people can put their arms around, embrace it and endorse it. If you can get the public to drink the kool aid then you can get people interested in coming to work for the government," said McManus.

Talk to your employees about the brand they want for the agency:

"In addition the DOI campaign has reinvigorated the DOI staff. Their staff has been able to reconnect with the mission. It all comes back to line of sight. So my piece of advice, when you are looking at how to brand the agency, spend some time talking to your current employees and ask them, ‘Why are you working here? What is the essence of this place? What is our DNA?' That is what you are trying to get to when drafting the mission statement. Then you have hit the homerun," said McManus. 

If you don't create a brand, your employees will make one up

"You need to know your employees are already dictating a brand for you. Whether that is in conversations they are having when someone asks, ‘What you do you do?’ They can affect either positively or negatively the image or the brand of your agency. That is why it is so important for agency leadership to say, ‘Our brand is a big deal, we want to shape this messaging. We want to own this part of this process.' You have to live your mission and your promise, otherwise your mission is just words on your agency’s walls. You don’t want people coming in and thinking this is not the job I signed up for," said McManus. 

Weekend reads

We know weekend time is precious, so we try to pull some stories throughout the week that are worth your time… and may just plant a seed for new ideas…

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