Branding and Stakeholder Engagement – the Missing Links in Government Strategic Communications and Marketing

This blog was written by:

Jim Mintz, CEPSM and Kathleen Connelly, Intersol Group Ltd.

 

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw 

 

The major challenge facing public sector organizations today is that they have great difficulty getting their message out. More important, many can’t seem to get their messages to resonate with their diverse target audiences, including internal and external audiences, stakeholders etc. Most communication and marketing approaches generate some awareness but not much else.  Public sector organizations today are looking for approaches that generate something more substantial like motivating people to get engaged and take action.

This is a common problem with most organizations we work with at the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing and Intersol Group Ltd. Many organizations are very focused on tactics, but very few have strategic communications plans to guide all of their activities. They tend to be reactive rather than proactive. Even in cases where they do have a strategic communications plan there tend to be some critical missing links.

The success of any communications effort is dependent on a strong underlying strategy and two main factors: getting the audiences right and telling them a story that matters to them.   Get that right, and everything else falls into place. And this means understanding the internal and external stakeholder landscape and identifying the right opportunities to bring meaning to the messages.

Strategies to increase awareness, support and understanding both internally and externally must include a holistic view of strategic planning, business and operational goals, marketing, communications, creative strategy combined with the granular details required for implementation in areas such as web, social media channels, media relations, inbound content-based communications, outbound marketing, and analytics.

From our experience there are two missing links in many public sector communications plans. Without a branding framework to guide the communications and a full understanding of the stakeholder landscape to encourage true engagement, the best communications or marketing strategy will “fall flat on its face”.

Missing Link #1:  Branding is much more than a visual identity or a tagline for an organization; it’s a core business tool, a strategic platform for both communicating and building value among its audiences.  A brand contains within it the complete value that an organization delivers, a relevant promise that matters to its audiences and is aligned with the organization’s strategic and operational goals.

branding

Branding is a strategic investment. It leads to an improved ability to internalize and communicate organizational vision and mission. A well-conceived brand provides clear and easy to understand principles that guide your communications and marketing efforts. The internalization and integration of a brand leads to the brand promise being lived by everyone who works for the organization, at all points of contact. “Living the brand” means more efficiency, and more return on investment for your communications and marketing dollar. A brand stands for the relationship that an organization has with its employees and partners, as much as it represents the relationship that it has with the people it serves.

Missing Link #2:  Stakeholder Engagement when done well increases the credibility of the organization.  Involving stakeholders and attending to their concerns establishes the organization as fair, ethical, and transparent, and makes it more likely that they will want to work with the organization. For the above reasons, identification of stakeholders and their specific concerns makes it far more likely that the organization’s communications efforts will garner both the support they need and the appropriate focus to be effective.

stakeholder_banner

To be successful, organizations have to rally support for what they are trying to achieve while building and maintaining good relationships with key stakeholders that are integral to future work. The objective is to work with stakeholders in a way that strikes a balance between meeting their expectations while reaching the organization’s communications and marketing goals.

Finally, a number of principles must always underpin and guide stakeholder engagement approaches. They include open and effective communication, a focus on seeking mutually beneficial outcomes, inclusiveness to ensure a variety of voices are heard and engaging in a way that builds mutual trust and respect.

                                               

Kathleen Connelly, Senior Consultant at Intersol Group, and Jim Mintz, Managing Partner at the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing, have many years of experience working with senior levels of government and bring fresh perspectives on communicating in a public sector environment.  

For more information about our services, please contact:

Jim Mintz | jimmintz@cepsm.ca or Kathleen Connelly | kconnelly@intersol.ca

 

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About jimmintz

Managing Partner, CEPSM Jim Mintz is a veteran marketing professional with many years of experience as a practioner and academic. He is presently Managing Partner at CEPSM and Program Director of the “Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing” at Sprott School ... Specialty Areas: Social Marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications, Public Sector and Non Profit Marketing
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