Government Should Never Try To Be Cool


It’s understandable that government communicators might feel somewhat left out of the swing of things. It’s cool to push brands in the private sector!

But the public looks to government for “boring” stuff. In particular, three kinds of information:

  • Laws, regulations, policies, procedures, and other restrictions. 
  • Services and products available to them. (Free stuff, or stuff at reduced cost.) 
  • Justice, oversight and accountability. 

The public does not want Big Government getting in its way with preachy, money-wasting, vanity campaigns.

As such, the government should not be blogging, Tweeting, Snapchatting or Instagramming as though it were Kim Kardashian.

Better is to provide information in an open format. That way, the public can both access it and weave it into multiple communication feeds that are always traceable to the source.
This can be achieved through branding:
  • Conceive of the government as a single sources of information, e.g. USA.gov.
  • Build one website that aggregates all government information, e.g. using USA.gov. Eliminate all other websites.
  • Eliminate all social media channels but one official agency identity, USA.gov.
  • Create website feeds on USA.gov by tag such that specialized audiences can lift and repurpose them.
  • Post data to USA.gov-linked information repositories (e.g. Data.gov) such that specialized audiences can lift and repurpose them.
Brands are singular, not multiple. The government has a wealth of information that the public needs.
The government should stick to its knitting.

Why doesn’t the government streamline and standardize communication operations? A few reasons:

  • The common and mistaken belief that government “should tell positive stories about itself” – it shouldn’t, that’s not part of its mandate.
  • The common tendency to equate results with quantity of communication.
  • The human need to feel important.
  • Lack of skill around technology.
  • Fear of losing one’s job by pooling resources.

It is not the public’s problem that the government has these shortcomings.

To be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars is to ask the tough questions about how communication money is spent, and reallocate it accordingly.

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Opinions my own. Photo via Pixabay (Creative Commons).

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