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The Official Blog of Forecast5 Analytics

Mike English
WRITTEN BY
Mike English

Best Practices, Local Government, Open Data

Branding Your Organization With Open Data

Posted on Apr 29, 2016 12:00:00 AM

You may be working on building your organization’s brand in the area of data-driven decision making.Local governments around the country are beginning to use analytics to find new resources, increase service levels, and create efficiencies for the benefit of their communities. The effectual and creative use of data is not only producing operational benefits, it is simultaneously building a powerful strategic brand for these entities. A question to consider…can this brand value be increased with a complementary data strategy of transparency?

Open Data initiatives are on the rise, spanning from Federal government initiatives all the way to local efforts to make more information available to constituents. The types of datasets that are being made available also span a wide range of ideas and opportunities including financial information, service statistics, economic development, and performance benchmarking. In some cases, this data is being made available to invite the public to “crowd source” innovative ideas. In other cases, the primary goal of Open Data is to increase transparency and accountability. Both of these intentions, and all in-between, should be applauded as these organizations have adopted the mindset that their data is an asset that can be used for operational and strategic growth.

Hear How Executive Director of IASB Uses Analytics to
Enhance Performance & Support Community Engagement

Building And Growing Your Brand Identity

There are many aspects involved in building a corporate brand and it is important to understand the difference between “brand identity” and “brand image”. Your brand identity is created by the things that you do to influence the public’s perception of your organization. Your brand image, then, is the result of those efforts and is defined by the actual public perception. The Management Study Guide has produced a nice table on Identity vs. Image that is worth referencing at http://managementstudyguide.com/identity-vs-image.htm.

In the private sector, successful companies generally have a strong brand identity because their leadership carefully guides it with purposeful management and execution. Since brand identity is tied to the consumer’s perception of the organization, then actual service delivery and product quality are the most critical components. However, brand identity can also be shaped in other ways outside of execution. Tactics and practices that may seem trivial can actually have a significant impact on public perception.

For the public sector, Open Data and transparency initiatives may not directly influence perceptions on the services or products of a local government. For example, municipalities may be evaluated on the quality of their community services, public safety, or infrastructure. Schools are typically measured on student services and outcomes. These areas represent measurable and tangible outputs. The brand impact of perceptions on transparency and accountability may be more difficult to measure.

Despite the measurement challenge, I believe a local government can elevate its brand identity through Open Data initiatives. Although it may not be easy to quantify the brand impact of a transparency initiative on a day-to-day basis, the benefits can show up when the entity is trying to advance its strategic plan. Organizational actions like proposing a budget, presenting an economic development plan, or communicating a referendum plan with tax increases may be approved more easily when the public perceives a high level of trust, financial integrity, and openness.

Read I Love My Schools:  Make it Easy for Your Community to Appreciate the State of Your District

Another issue to consider…as more local governments adopt transparency initiatives, the public expectation for Open Data increases. Leaders that have taken a proactive approach may have a brand identity advantage that others will have to catch up to. The growth in this activity is posing a management question for public administrators…”Do we want to be perceived as a leader or follower in the area of transparency?”

If your organization is complementing its brand identity with an Open Data strategy, what benefits have you realized?

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Mike English is a founder and the CEO/President of Forecast5 Analytics, Inc. – a technology company focused on software development and data analytics for the public sector. Mike has spent his entire career concentrating on the development of financial and strategic solutions for schools and municipalities. Forecast5 is headquartered in Naperville, Illinois – a suburb 30 miles west of Chicago.

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