How to Differentiate Your Public Sector Brand

by Heather Kerrigan on June 07, 2017

Your brand tells the public who you are, and as an extension of that, can help you attract the best and brightest to your workforce. Your brand can help you differentiate yourself in a meaningful way that potential employees will remember and that current employees can live out on a day-to-day basis. Here's how. 

Know Your Audience and What They Want

When developing your brand, it’s important to first think about your audience; here, potential job seekers. You’ll want to consider not only what you want to communicate to the potential hire, but also what that hire wants to know. In developing your brand, ask yourself, what is your niche in government? What attributes make your organization unique, and which of these might be most important to a potential employee? Then determine who competes with your organization for talent. What do you offer that the other organization doesn’t? Look beyond pay and benefits and focus on employee development, specialty projects, work environment, the unique skills of your current employees, and your mission and goals.

To answer these questions, look not just to your HR or marketing teams, but also bring in leadership, current employees, and, if possible, former employees. Ask what they value most within the organization, what drew them to the agency in the first place, and why they’ve stayed (or not). Then, review your current organizational materials (posters around the office, newsletters, training guides). What do these tell you about your current brand? If a potential hire was looking at these materials, what might this individual infer about your brand? Is that the image you want to project? If not, what do you want to change?

Creating Internal Brand Buy In

Once your brand is developed, you need to teach current employees about the new branding efforts. Give them an “elevator pitch” they can use when answering the questions “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” Your employees are your best brand ambassadors, so it’s important to help them feel connected to the brand and understand the role that they play within it.

Foster employees’ engagement with the brand by teaching them how their personal brands can grow along with the organization’s. Give employees examples—based on their personal goals—of how the organization can help achieve this and how employees’ personal goals better the agency. Said another way, encourage your employees to be their best selves, and help them get there through constant development. Employees who are equipped and empowered as brand ambassadors (and who understand the expectations about representing your brand) are well positioned to communicate the brand before various audiences, including potential candidates.

Develop brand guidelines and distribute them to all employees. Make clear to senior leaders that they will be on the front line of demonstrating the brand consistently. This shows the branding initiative is vital to the organization, and that the organization intends to make good on the brand’s promise.

Sharing Your Brand Externally

When the brand is well-known internally, it’s time to spread the word to the outside world, including your potential employees. Update your website and social media profiles to reflect the brand, and use the brand as an impetus for what goes out across your social media channels, on your website, at career fairs, in job postings, and during interviews. As much as possible, use images and videos that help a candidate visualize how the organization lives its brand every day, and invite your employees to submit their own photos or posts to share “day in the life” snippets that might appeal to a candidate. 

Once you get your desired candidates to apply, make sure your hiring and onboarding process reflects your brand. Hold interviews that showcase what it means to work within your organization—not just a list of duties, but what your organization does, how and why it does it, and the value your employees have. In doing so, be transparent, accessible, and authentic. If you overpromise and aren’t true to your brand, your candidate turned new hire will quickly become disillusioned. When onboarding new hires take advantage of employee onboarding software to convey your brand by creating a customized onboarding experience with videos, documents and other new hire materials. 

Your Brand as a Living Thing

Finally, remember that branding is a long-term process, not a quick fix. Be deliberate and forward-thinking when developing your brand and create something on which you can deliver. Because it is a living thing, you should evaluate your brand regularly, but avoid making constant adjustments because of boredom with the current brand. Instead, nurture it and protect your space, while also helping your brand navigate changes in your environment.

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Heather Kerrigan

Heather Kerrigan covers local, state, federal, and international policy and politics for a variety of publications. She received her degree in journalism and mass communication with a minor in political science from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and has spent her entire career working in the journalism field.