Some argue that when it comes to polishing its public image, Feds should follow the rebranding examples of Corporate America. But Federal Government does not need to spend multiple millions of dollars — in our case with taxpayer money, whether real or perceived — to improve its public standing. Unlike the corporate world, we are not selling or marketing products strictly for financial gain, popularity, and higher stock prices (by the way, most of which primarily benefits fat-cat CEOs and corporate boards, not rank-and-file private sector workers). Therefore, asserting that a Government-wide rebranding initiative is the way to go because Corporate America does it, ignores the implications and unique perceptions of private versus public sector priorities. It’s like the proverbial mixing of apples and oranges.
What would “Jane Doe” and “Joe Six-Pack” think?
Even if a massive rebranding of the Federal workforce was justified, who would pay for such a mega-initiative and who would run it? During these time of draconian Federal budget cuts, would taxpayers genuinely approve of Federal civil servants uniformly engineering a massive rebranding campaign to offset a sagging public image (that may only be fleeting)? If anything, this may cause public perception of Feds to further plummet because the public may view rebranding as pure propaganda to benefit one Party’s political fortunes. Do you think “Jane Doe” or “Joe Six-Pack” — struggling to keep or find a job, pay the mortgage and support a family, etc. — wants Feds to spend more taxpayer money, time and scarce resources on attempts to rebrand itself based on what corporations do? Why should taxpayer dollars and limited human resources be spent to make the public think more highly of the Federal workforce? This is a risky gambit. Such a strategy may be viewed as not only unnecessary in purpose, but may backfire in practice? During these trying times for so many Americans, the public perception of a Government-wide rebranding effort may result in another PR disaster for Feds — the last thing we need in this political and economic environment. And, if one thinks rebranding America’s largest workforce would be cost-free — in terms of time, money and public opinion — then how about purchasing some swamp land in Florida? Examples of major corporate-wide rebranding disasters are plentiful, ominous and telling: http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/white-coke-cans-5-rebranding-135654009.htmlRebranding in a parallel universe
But let’s just assume, for argument’s sake, that a Fed-wide rebranding effort made sense at this time (albeit in a parallel universe). Who would be in charge of running it? OPM and OMB? A consortium of Federal agencies? The White House? How would the political folks Government-wide partner, prioritize and participate with career Feds and stakeholders in such a grand scale endeavor? Would the White House and Congress even endorse a major rebranding plan or consider it folly? And, all this during a pivotal election year for the Presidency and Congress. I think the answer speaks volumes for itself.
Feds need to get back to basics
What Feds need to do, rather than launching a resource-consuming mass rebranding effort, is GET BACK TO BASICS! That is, the basic function of doing one’s job as a Fed with dignity, pride, and precision to the best of one’s ability. Feds collective and renewed individual work efforts would speak louder than what the public may perceive as a PR gimmick (no, most Americans don’t know or understand the often subtle differences between branding and PR). Or, to paraphrase FDR, “Speak softly and carry a big stick” — of Federal efficiency, effectiveness, and proven mission-driven results. Go the extra mile no matter what your job or position may be, especially involving any direct public interaction — which is the real way to influence perception of Government. Feds should already be doing all this anyway.
Transit workers rescue young girl’s stuffed animal
The little things sometimes really do mean a lot when it comes to molding public opinion for the better. To wit: NBC Nightly News, with a viewership of millions, recently aired a positive story about Government transit workers in Boston who went “above and beyond” the call of duty to help a little girl in need — of her toy bunny rabbit which fell on the train tracks! While this may appear trivial at first glance, the NBC report and related stories went viral online and were also carried by hundreds of news outlets nationwide and overseas. This one small example of unselfish public servants doing public good may have done more to benefit opinion about Government than any branding campaign ever could. See http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/47743732 and
Lessons learned from the Boston bunny
As the Boston bunny story illustrates, friendly, cooperative and positive interactions between the populace and front-line Feds is the best panacea to improve public opinion. Branding and rebranding projects can only do so much for so long to refurbish the individual image of Feds and the collective image of Government as an institution. On the flip side, customer service really does count and Feds have a critically important role to play in this regard. We can and do improve the daily lives of hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens, many of whom rely on the beneficial Federal services we work so hard to provide and perfect. Federal services not only improve life for individual citizens, but also the collective life of the nation.
Final thoughts for Feds
Thus, Feds don’t need to rebrand, per Corporate America. Rather, Feds just need take practical and prudent measures to improve upon the current brand, which may be embattled but not broken. While rebranding may have a place in substantive situational roles of individual agencies, boosting public opinion of the entire Federal workforce is not one of them — particularly when being viewed at taxpayers’ expense. In short, Feds just need to hold their heads high, do their jobs well, go the extra mile for the citizens served, and let public opinion be what it may. Save the massive branding and rebranding efforts for Corporate America, where they belong.
Note: Also see Parts I and II:
*** All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.