A fresh lick of paint: how government bodies use rebranding for ‘reputation management’

Since 2013, at least 12 government entities underwent a process of rebranding, ranging from a fresh logo and a new name to new functions and powers.

The frequency with which such rebranding is carried out, along with the way in which it is often presented as part of a wider reform strategy, smacks of ‘reputation management’, defined as “the practice of influencing stakeholder perceptions and public conversations about an organisation and its brands”.

Public contracts for rebranding can prove to be extremely lucrative for the firms that obtain them – one example of this is a direct order that was given to PR firm Redorange Image Consultants, owned by Daniel Abela, the nephew of former Labour deputy prime minister Louis Grech.

One such contract for a media campaign to aid with Wasteserv’s rebranding awarded to Redorange Image Consultants in April 2020 cost taxpayers €133,250. Another contract awarded to BRND WGN Company Ltd in February of that same year for Heritage Malta’s rebranding strategy cost taxpayers €121,942.

Conveniently, the name changes and the brand-new logos also help with the process of burying or at least obfuscating bad publicity when anyone tries to search for information about past or present issues linked with the rebranded entity.

One example of this lies with two government agencies involved in Malta’s golden passport and residency schemes: the Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency became Aġenzija Komunita’ Malta, while the Malta Residence and VISA Agency was rebranded to the Residency Malta Agency.

The changes were made following Malta’s decision to update its golden passports programme in November 2020, just a month after the EU Commission issued a letter of formal notice as part of its infringement proceedings against the country.

Rather than addressing the EU’s repeated calls to scrap the golden passport scheme completely, the agencies involved were rebranded along with an update to the legislation which tightened some of the requirements for the acquisition of citizenship but largely remained the same.

Other government bodies that got a fresh lick of paint following unfavourable PR include the Correctional Services Agency, which was previously known by the name of the institution, Corradino Correctional Facility.

In this case, the rebranding occurred during the same time period in which the list of prisoners who committed suicide in detention was growing longer, a situation which led to the eventual self-suspension and removal of the prison’s director-general, Alex Dalli.

The former Office of the Refugee Commissioner became the International Protection Agency in August 2020, with its main function being the processing of asylum seeker applications.

While Malta has faced criticism for its mistreatment of asylum seekers, The Shift had further revealed that in spite of the original office’s expansion into an agency and its rebranding, the applications processing system remains far from adequate.

An insider source had flagged how the agency maintains a general policy prioritising the processing of applications slated for rejection and therefore, deportation, while leaving acceptable applications on the back-burner.

Other entities underwent a rebranding that on a cosmetic level – a makeover exercise that usually involves plans or roles that are presented as new responsibilities for the entity in question.

An example of this includes Malta Industrial Parks, which was refreshed as INDIS Malta in 2020 when the government announced plans to invest €470 million in upgrading Malta’s industrial estates.

INDIS Malta was recently mentioned in two stories published by The Shift which outlined how Malta Today co-owner Saviour Balzan and Burmarrad Commercials owner Mario Gauci had obtained a hefty discount on contracts for the use of public land within the industrial estates.

The scarcely known Resource Recovery and Recycling Agency was rebranded to Circular Economy Malta, with then-environment minister Aaron Farrugia pledging that the rebranding reflects Malta’s efforts to move towards an economy that reuses its waste material. Not much happened beyond the change in name.

While Farrugia made his announcement in May 2021, the former environment minister, Jose’ Herrera, had made the same exact pledge with the previous version of the same entity when it was first launched in October 2018.

A snippet from a press release from 2018 featuring Herrera’s commentary on the setting-up of the Resource, Recovery and Recycling Agency.


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2 years ago

Rebranding ; Well Putin rebranded an Invasion into a liberation .
He is still a Nazi assassin gang leader.
A government that gives direct contracts to criminals is still a business friendly government with criminals as his contractors.

2 years ago

Economija cirkulari:
Li tfisser li se nibdew niklu dak li haddiehor jarmi,
Niftakar it tuffieh ta zmien Mintoff. Kif konna nighdu , lanqas ghal Hniezer m’hu tajjeb.

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