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Branding the product in a suitable way is a problem facing councils, says John Thornton ...
Branding the product in a suitable way is a problem facing councils, says John Thornton

At a recent Improvement & Development Agency e-champions network event, Chris Trinick, the chief executive of Lancashire CC highlighted the branding dichotomy facing many councils.

A customer survey had shown most citizens have a high regard for the individual services provided but a much poorer perception of Lancashire as a council. Sensibly, Lancashire has reviewed its branding and ensured all its services clearly display the Lancashire logo in order to help citizens and service users see a more visible link between the services and the council.

We are increasingly operating in a world of partnerships where we are using e-government to join up services in ways that make sense to the citizen/user rather than the provider.

We are seeing county/district partnerships with shared contact centres, one-stop-shops and websites. For these, branding can often get in the way.

As long as a trusted party operates the site, the service user is much more interested in the outcome than the inter-relationship between the 15 organisations that facilitated it.

The solution could be a generic geographic badge like Surrey, Hertfordshire or Lancashire which is easily recognisable by service users. But this can then threaten the district partners, who also want to make the appropriate links between good service and their council?s input.

For a unitary council, it is much easier. Most local partners would probably support a generic geographic badge, for say, Croydon or Bromley.

Some partnerships have tried to experiment with different approaches.

The Worcestershire Partnership initially tried to have different desks in its one-stop-shops for county and district enquiries, but quickly abandoned this idea when the most frequently asked question was: ?Which queue should I join??

As e-government develops, councils will have to become much smarter at understanding marketing and branding. They will need to be able to use and integrate their different identities in ways that boost the trust of citizens and service users, while building relations between partners and ensuring accountability for performance and delivery.

These are complex marketing issues which will become even more important to many councils as the debate over regional assemblies gathers momentum.

John Thornton

Director of e-government, IDeA

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