Greenwire article, “Agency retreats from contentious $10M ‘branding’ initiative” — excerpts:
“The Forest Service abandoned a $10 million rebranding effort today after the proposal sparked opposition from some employees and a government watchdog group.
The agency had announced plans in November to hire an outside firm to help it achieve “strategic organizational transformation, identity clarification and social purpose branding and branding management, and multicultural engagement and outreach.”
The request for proposals, which closed just before New Year’s Day, offered up to $10 million over the next five years.
Some called it a smart investment that could have boosted employee morale, bolstered public trust and strengthened support from Congress.
Others called it a waste of money that could have been better spent restoring watersheds, building trails, thinning unhealthy forests or beefing up staff.
But the agency is putting the effort on the backburner, for now.
The presumed front-runner for the branding contract was Metropolitan Group, a Portland, Ore.-based “social change” firm that the Forest Service previously tapped to help its Pacific Northwest region “reflect on its roots and discover its future.”
The firm said it helped the region’s 3,000 employees in Oregon and Washington state “rediscover” the mission outlined by the Forest Service’s first chief, Gifford Pinchot: “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”
“We clarified the region’s core identity using the greatest good as a frame to unify and communicate a complex array of ideas and work,” Metropolitan Group said on its website. “From this foundation we crafted a new vocabulary, look, and feel that employees are already using to more successfully engage with each other and the public.”
A sample of the firm’s work can be found here.
Metropolitan Group has also been contracted by the Forest Service’s Intermountain region based in Ogden, Utah, and the Pacific Northwest Research Station to “foster a more powerful and shared appreciation of agency mission amongst internal and external stakeholders.”
The total value of its contracts is believed to exceed $1 million.
The regional efforts were a “starting point for an agency-wide undertaking to prepare its workforce to engage in a cultural transformation and identity clarification,” according to the Forest Service’s November RFP.
Metropolitan Group currently holds a $527,000 contract that runs through next month to help Forest Service leaders take the regional branding and identity effort nationwide.