Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Saving Puget Sound: Brand, Re-brand, No Brand

My colleague Joan Crooks of Washington Environmental Council wrote me a nice email on Monday dressed up just like a message from People For Puget Sound. She even got the typography of capitalizing the “F” in “For” right. Maybe it was meant to be new wine in old skin or maybe old wine in new skin or old wine in old skin —somebody help me here— but it just tasted weird and strange.

In essence the message was that the People For Puget Sound saving Puget Sound beat will go on— somehow and soon, stay tuned. I will. After all, Joan has my email address and everyone else’s that was in the massive database of the now-defunct 20-plus year-old organization.

The “People For Puget Sound” brand, however, is pretty heavily damaged. Here’s why:

The organization knew well in advance of founder and executive director Kathy Fletcher’s retirement in 2011 that it needed to rebrand itself from “Kathy Fletcher’s organization.” Hence, it spent nearly two years upgrading its administrative systems, updating its strategic plan and developing an executive director search and transition plan.

The new executive director would be chosen to carry out the strategic plan with all systems operational and move the organization forward into the next decade. The transitional pivot in the rebranding was the 20th anniversary celebration throughout 2011, first looking back on the organization’s accomplishments, then— and most important-- looking forward to the next 20 years under new leadership introduced throughout the Sound at community and member events.

New executive director Tom Bancroft and the board of directors chose not to follow the transition plan, instead choosing to reduce work force to reduce operating expense. Thence began the eclipse of People For Puget Sound: declining public engagement, declining public profile, declining influence. Members and the very people of Puget Sound weren’t told what, if anything, the organization was doing and accomplishing for the Sound. No accomplishments, no funds raised. No bangs, no bucks. Classic death spiral.

The board and Tom Bancroft never rebranded People For Puget Sound; they sank “Kathy Fletcher’s organization.” And now, WEC has taken the nameplate and says one day she will float again.

Will she float again as a USS Nimitz alongside WEC’s USS Stennis? Or a dinghy towed behind the WEC yacht? Will wait to see.

--Mike Sato


  1. I got that letter - it sort of said to me, "No Mun, No Fun .. Too Bad, So Sad. (Don't go be holdin' your breath.")

    The biggest evidence of People For Puget Sound here in Skagit has been the "Storming the Sound" day in January every year. Let's see how that goes.


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