Branding Q&A with Mike Ford

Branding, when used correctly, can be very successful for recruiting websites. I sat down with Mike Ford, the creative director at Epic Recruiting, to discuss branding and its importance when creating law enforcement recruitment websites. Branding can be very helpful for the department and Mike believes that having an one brand and one message is the only way to resonate with people who are looking for law enforcement jobs. “When that branding is there and successful, we’re gonna get those real results for the department,” Ford said.

Q: Why does branding matter for law enforcement?


I’d say, branding is crucial for law enforcement as a whole. Think about it, it’s like branding is crucial, because it basically gives an idea or an understanding of what it might be like to work at the department. It’s not only just the colors or logo, it has to do with the fonts as well. Also the verbiage. It can also be the imagery and stuff that we use for the site and video as well. Then it all comes together to build a brand that hopefully resonates with the visitor of the website and gives them a really good understanding of what it’s like to work for that police department. Branding is a really good way to get basically their vibe out there for the potential employees.

Q: Does brand consistency matter?


Brand consistency is very, very important. So, you know, we have the branding, and everything that’s on the website as a whole, which again, is covering all the fonts and colors and imagery. But to go ahead and use that same stuff on social media platforms and advertising, it brings the whole thing together. So if somebody is doing a search ad and a Google Ad pops up for them, and it looks like the website, they might have been to the website before but then they’re getting reminded again, that maybe they’ve been there. Having that brand consistency makes it easier for that person to go ahead and remember that they’ve interacted with the brand before and that they might want to go back to it. It also makes it easier if they’re coming across a print piece, or if they have an event at a convention or something and the booth and stuff is designed with the brand as well. It just makes it easily recognizable and connectable to that police department.

Q: Does it have to be consistent over time and over platforms?


There’s a saying that always sort of sticks with me and it’s by the time you’re starting to get tired of your new brand, that’s when people are just starting to pick up on it. So usually having a brand and consistent messaging for an extended period of time is actually beneficial, because you never know where a person is at with the brand. It could be new to them. If they are currently looking for jobs, or they might not be looking for it now, or looking to use your services now, but they might be looking for it in a year or two. They might be able to recall seeing that brand before, which is also going to go ahead and help with recognition and trust of your brand. Because they’ve seen it before, so staying consistent with your brand is important for recognition.

Q: What's the difference between the brand and style?


Brand encompasses everything. So it’s your messaging, it’s the fonts, the colors, the styling, how we do our photography, and the video. So the brand is sort of how everything is perceived as a whole. Style is just more of just getting into the graphical side of things where it’s the color and the fonts and stuff like that, but brand is the messaging as a whole to make that department recognizable and unique to themselves.

Q: How does color play an important role in a brand?


Color definitely plays a huge role. It’s very important. So different colors can go ahead and invoke different emotions. If it’s an energetic department we might want to go ahead with a brighter color like a yellow. There’s also some energy in oranges. If it’s more of a traditional or a calmer department, we would go for more of a blue to represent that. We’ve done forest green and stuff like blue greens pastels to give it more of an earthy vibe or a chill vibe of the departments that are more forestry. Colors also play a huge role in representing the department. Also, color plays a huge role in call to actions. So when we are designing websites and or print, we’d like to use what would be like an accent color or bright color that is going to go ahead and attract your eyes to the Apply Now buttons. We tend to make those with brighter color than the rest of the site. Just so they stand out a little bit more, and the visitor is more likely to click those as well.

Q: Does the font matter?

Yeah, like everything else; font, it plays a huge role. Whether you want to give a new modern vibe to the police department, or give a more traditional look, fonts can create that look for the website. If you’re going for a new modern sort of futuristic policing look, you might pick something like sans serif, a little bit more bold, a little bit more crisp. Whereas, if you’re more of a traditional Police Department, you might want to pick a serif font that may be recognized to be a little bit more sophisticated. You know, something has been around for a while, something a little more traditional. So font working with color can give an overall feeling of what the department’s about.

Q: Does the recruitment brand have to match the main department brand?


So no, it doesn’t have to match the brand. So the department’s brand that is on a government site is specifically geared to be interacting with the citizens and on a government level. So it is likely going to be clean, concise, and easy to get direct, but it’s a little bit more sterile because it’s just information based. Whereas then when we do the marketing sites, we go ahead and we have a little bit more energizing colors and they are definitely the more engaging. There are also definitely more engaging photos and videos. We’re trying to get the overall feel of what it’s like to work for the department. So graphics played a huge role in bringing that emotion ahead and portraying a good representation of being an officer for the city and what it’s like to be a part of their team. So having that sort of unique look to that site gives a better overall picture of what it is to be at that police department versus just a standard city website.

Q: How long should LE stick with the brand?


It’s not uncommon for our police departments to be on that same brand for 5 or 10 plus years, and it still is going to be relevant. It can still easily be updated with new imagery and videos to reflect new leadership or new personnel, but still utilizing that same brand. This gives that department that new content, but then it is pulling off that existing strong brand that people are recognizing as that department.

Q: Where do you start when designing a brand?


So typically the start of the whole brand and coming up with the brand starts out with its discovery day. So when we start, we go out to a department and start doing the interviews with the police department, we do tours of the city, ride alongs, and focus on getting a feel of what the department is. That starts bringing together a picture of who they are and what it’s like to be there. We want to know what’s important to them. What’s the vibe, what colors would represent that vibe. Is it energetic? You know, is it a youthful department? Is it a traditional police department? Learning all these things about the department then starts with bringing that brand together. So then from there, it’s really more of an experimentation, and sort of experimenting with palettes and fonts and colors. 

Q: Do LE need custom photos and videos or can stock imagery work?


They absolutely need the custom photos and videos. There is nothing more detrimental to the department than when somebody has already been on another department’s site and it’s using the same photograph. So having that custom photography and video is going to go ahead and build on that brand to show what it’s like to be at that department specifically, and not just any department. It’s going to be actual photos on location and they’re going to get that real story versus that generic stock imagery, which is more abstract so you might not get a full picture of what’s really going on at that department. I think doing that custom photography and custom video really hones in on what it is to work with the department and at the level that they’re doing things.

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