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Why Government Needs Marketing

The word “marketing” is almost a curse word in government.
For many it conjures up ideas of waste, fraud, and

abuse. In 2010, the UK government actually banned advertising and marketing spending as part of cost savings measures.

However, I’m a big believer that government needs to market & advertise. Just like any organization (non-profit, for-profit), government needs to let citizens know about what services and offerings they provide.

That’s why I loved seeing this in Philadelphia – “Where’s My SEPTA: Regional rail app sees 1,000% growth after outreach”

The story talks about how after Code for America designed outreach and marketing materials for two local app winners and SEPTA paid for broad distribution of the promotion – there was 1,000+ growth in app use.

Too often, we build it and hope citizens come. We build great services and programs, apps in hackathons and juust hope they take off.

I hope more cities follow the Philadelphia model and advertise the winners of their hackathons and challenges. Cities have advertising space they already own (like public transportation space and billboards) that they can leverage.

The goal isn’t to build cool citizen engagement tools. The goal is s to get large amounts of people to adopt new citizen engagement tools to make their cities better.

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8 Comments

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Profile Photo Dannielle Blumenthal

I think the confusion is between marketing and propaganda. Like Drucker said, “Business exists to serve the customer” and without letting the customer know you exist, you don’t have a business. Great post.

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Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

I’d love to see a massive marketing campaign that helps citizens better understand who government is (the smart people and the important work they do). OPM could run that kind of campaign – aimed at recruitment of top talent and improvement of public perception of government.

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Profile Photo Hannah Ornell

It’s too bad that people might think of government advertising as wasteful. The way I see it, having underutilized government services simply because people are unaware of them is much more wasteful than an ad campaign would be.

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Profile Photo Jon Mathis

It does seem that much of the U.S. population doesn’t know what they’re getting from governments, particularly the federal government. But marketing of the federal government by the federal government is always going to seem self-serving, which will lead most citizens to discount the message. It would be great if there were some non-governmental organization that would pick this up, in the interest of having a better informed citizenry.

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Profile Photo Jon Mathis

While government organizations can, and should, make information available on what services they provide, particularly to the customers they serve or support, that communication of this information to a broader citizen audience is often going to be seen as self-serving, and therefore regarded skeptically. However, if a third party, for example a Partnership for Public Service or the American Society for Public Administration, were to mount an effort to get these facts out, I believe that it is likely that the citizen audience would take in this information with a more open mind.

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Profile Photo Dick Davies

Marketing is more than outreach. It is improving users’ ability to use and appreciate your services. Marketing is also about building communities of enthusiastic users.

Marketing is getting the feedback to improve your offering.

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