Friday, July 18, 2014

On defining and communicating the brand

by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

When Destination 2020 was first released I remarked that "the recognition that the public service brand (as a profession) was in need of a major overhaul" was one of the most interesting things to come out of the report (See: Unsolicited Thoughts on Destination 2020). Given our recent discussions on public sector ideology (See: The Public Service as Ideology, My Public Service Ideology and Why Worry About Ideology) I thought it might be useful to go back to the 'Fundamentals of Public Service' section of Destination 2020, have another read, and see what shakes out.

Here's what it says:

... Building the Federal Public Service brand is a work in progress, and employee engagement will continue with the goal to further refine the strategy to address this priority area. Two new actions will help the Public Service reach its destination:
Engagement process to define and communicate the Federal Public Service brand 
An engagement process will be launched with public servants to shape what it means to be a public servant. Defining the Federal Public Service brand will include crowdsourcing the definition of who we are and developing a strategy to communicate to Canadians and public servants who we are and what we do.
A suite of measures will support the engagement effort and reach across internal and external channels to foster a strong image of the Federal Public Service, including defining ways to:
  • showcase the role the Public Service plays in the daily lives of Canadians through dynamic vignettes and portraits to show how public servants affect the lives of Canadians directly or indirectly; 
  • strengthen whole-of-government approaches to promote employment opportunities within (e.g., virtual tours, interviews, and videos); 
  • profile the good work public servants do in communities across Canada (for example, the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign, volunteering with homeless shelters, and adopting a local food bank); and 
  • highlight key achievements of public servants by showcasing awards of excellence and making them more visible, and appointing high-profile current and former public servants as Public Service ambassadors, who can project a strong positive image of the Public Service.

Public Service of Canada Landing Page to profile what public servants do and to promote employment opportunities
To advance these initiatives, a Public Service of Canada landing page will be launched to profile the great things that public servants do to serve Canadians. The landing page will function as a "home" for the Public Service, available to both public servants and Canadians. Horizontal communities will also be featured and can profile the landing page with their members.

What shakes out for me ...

While I agree that the brand is a work in progress, I disagree with the approach. How can we know that a communications strategy and a website are the fix to the problem when we've only just begun to define it (See: When did the public service become an ignoble profession or Can bureaucrats be interesting when the world demands they be boring)?

Haven't we put the cart before the horse? 

Shouldn't the engagement process be designed to unearth new solutions as opposed to validating old assumptions? We need only look back four years to see that Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) tried this before. Remember the short lived Public Service e-Magazine 'It's My Day'?

If not, that's fine the site is still live despite the mag only being operational for a calendar year (2008-09). Prior to Googling it, I assumed that someone at TBS would have archived the pages by now (e.g. when TBS implemented the Standard on Web Accessibility).

But surely this time around things will be different

NB: I wrote an entire section here that I decided to pull because I could neither contain my sarcasm nor drive home my point effectively without it; just re-read the subtitle, it captures the essence. 

Sarcasm aside

I'm genuinely interested in how this engagement rolls out; not so much from the process standpoint but in terms of its content and more importantly the resolve that will be required to wade into it in a meaningful manner. Despite the challenge, I think we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us. But I can't help but wonder, do we have what it takes to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty on this one?

Are we going to ask the tough questions? 

Are we going to take a good hard look in the collective mirror of our common interests?

Are we willing to honour the fact that despite our differences we are all bound in the same social contract be we citizens, public servants, elected officials, union bosses, journalists or academics?

Are we willing to accept our own fair share of the blame for the mistakes of the past and take greater responsibility for our future?

Or, will we choose to keep our hands clean and resign ourselves to yet another website?

Non-sequitur: I published an article on Public Sector Transformation (co-written with IOG President Maryantonnet Flumian) in this quarter's Commonwealth Innovations Review, if interested you can download the journal here.

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