Building Brand Through Strong Crisis Response
Mark F. Weinberg is a retired California and Washington State City Manager with over 40 years of local government experience. He has served as a consultant to cities on organizational structure, management, human resources, finance, public safety, and community and economic development.

For over 25 years has partnered with state and local governments to help meet your HR needs.  We have encouraged public service organizations to actively develop and cultivate their “brand” to facilitate the recruitment, hiring and retention of top staff. Agencies needed little prodding given their awareness that quality employees elevate service delivery, and a strong brand has the added benefits of stimulating community investment and development, bolstering civic pride, and enhancing quality of life.

Understandably, while addressing the myriad public health, safety and related service demands resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, conscious efforts aimed at “branding” are overshadowed.  That is certainly true when branding is viewed in the traditional context of marketing and promotion.   However, to the extent that brand and image are inextricably linked, how well governments perform during the next several weeks and months may have a lasting impression.  In a sense, then, branding will continue even if it is influenced more through action than rhetoric and its message shifts from marketing to building trust and confidence.

Establishing trust requires elements of organization, honesty, integrity, openness, and sound policymaking and implementation.
Establishing trust requires elements of organization, honesty, integrity, openness, and sound policymaking and implementation.  Building confidence requires “response-ability”, competence, commitment, and reliability.

As a service industry, government spends as much as 70% on wages and benefits for the employees who are charged with providing the lion’s share of services at the community level. This is an enormous investment and for good reason. How well these services are delivered, especially during health and welfare emergencies, will be indelibly etched in people’s minds. It will burnish or tarnish a public service agency’s brand.  The Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two Chinese characters signifying “danger” and “opportunity” respectively. Agencies which employ best practices regarding recruiting, hiring, training, developing, rewarding and retaining the most qualified public employees are certain to experience the best outcomes and maximize opportunities for the future. Their results will not only benefit their community in vital and enumerable ways, it will ensure that they become or remain a public service employer of choice.

Finally, over time the most enduring reason given by those for seeking careers in public service is “to make a difference”.  An existential health crisis the magnitude of COVID-19, has the potential to demonstrate the enormous power of public service, and to reinvigorate its appeal. As a profession and formidable employment sector, in the months and years following this crisis government should take the opportunity to recruit a future generation of public servants and volunteers. We should not overlook the Kennedyesque moment; “You no longer need ask what your government can do for you, ask how you can become a part of government

The cornerstone of service delivery success during crises is having a fully staffed, agile and flexible quality workforce in place that operates under stressful conditions in a manner which promotes trust and confidence.  As your HR partner, we are prepared and dedicated to help you achieve all your personnel staffing needs.

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