Being Our City’s Brand Champion (even if it means being the bad guy)

Posted on November 12, 2020



Today’s Buzz is by Kara Roberson– Communications Manger/PIO at the City of Wentzville

I’ve been blessed to always work for immediate bosses, supervisors, city administrators and elected officials who strongly support me. Bosses who truly have my back and constantly remind me of my value to the organization. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when it wasn’t easy, but after I have built trust and proven myself it’s usually a moot point. From time to time, however, I’ve had to defend myself and my decisions to staff who either work outside of the marketing/communications field or who simply don’t understand my role. Sometimes this can be rough. Sometimes it’s just a matter of people not understanding the value of marketing/communications to a city. To combat this I’ve shared my knowledge through writing and style classes, spread the word about the importance of branding and consistency, and explained why we do the things we do. Usually, the “why” causes people to have a sort of “aha moment” and helps them understand more about my role and the importance of having a brand champion.

I feel very strongly about protecting our brand. It’s something that’s been entrusted to me to protect. It’s like a small child that I have to shield from name-calling or to safeguard from being bullied. I fancy myself somewhat of a reputation risk manager. I’ve come to understand that sometimes protecting the city’s brand means saying “no” to things that aren’t necessarily bad things but, just the same, they don’t directly enhance or support our brand either. Being the bad guy all the time is hard. It’s stressful. It keeps me up at night (literally). I have to assume people are talking about me behind my back, thinking I’m on some kind of power trip. Let me assure you, I am not. In all honesty, I don’t need this job – but I really, really love this job (most days).

Defending my role as a communicator and brand manager isn’t something I should have to do, but it seems to come with the territory. I understand defending and protecting our brand externally, but what I struggle with is having to fight the same fights over and over again internally. My job is already 90% putting out fires and 10% fire prevention, I shouldn’t be fighting fires with internal staff. We have guidelines, policies and procedures in place for a reason. Sure there are gray areas, but jumping into those areas or crossing a line that may or may not affect or brand isn’t something I want to do. To me, at some point, there’s no going back. 

Regardless of the pushback I get, in the end, I’ll continue to safeguard the brand, choosing to be proactive instead of reactive (as often as I can). I’ll keep telling the world why branding is so important. Reminding everyone that it is so much more than your logo, or colors or fonts – it’s a unified voice, messaging that is consistent, and graphic design elements that are both eye-catching and immediately identify your organization.

Marketing your city with creative pieces that are both well-designed and well-communicated is crucial, maybe now more than ever before. Advertising, marketing and fake news have saturated every digital platform. So, in order to be seen, to stand out and to tell your own authentic story, your audience must trust you. Consistently staying on-brand overtime builds that trust. I know this and there is data to back me up. My integrated marketing/communications degree, my 20 plus years of communications experience, my 10 years of social media experience, my 15 years as a public servant (and over eight combined decades as the child and grandchild or public servants) – this should all count for something.

Sometimes I worry I’m too passionate about branding. I know there are times I need to step away from it all and look at things from my colleagues’ perspective, but I’m hoping they can see things from my perspective sometimes too. Ruth Bader Ginsberg probably said it best, “Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”  I’ll continue to fight the good fight and to be our city’s brand champion. Hopefully, I’ll win someone over in the process. 


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