January 2010 | 72
Marketing in the Public Sector
By Olivier Serrat
Marketing in the public sector may be the final frontier. Agencies operating in the public domain can use a custom blend of the four Ps—product (or service), place, price, and promotion—as well as other marketing techniques to transform their communications with stakeholders, improve their performance, and demonstrate a positive return on the resources they are endowed with. The public sector is the part of economic life, not in private ownership, that deals with the production, delivery, and allocation of basic public goods and services at global,1 regional, national,2 or local levels. (Its processes and structures can take the form of direct administration, public corporations, and partial outsourcing. Its activities are funded through government expenditure financed by seigniorage, taxes, and government borrowing, or through grants.) The public sector is vast. From 1996 to 2006, for example, government spending in the United States made up 35% of gross domestic product. (Over the same period, in numerous large European economies,
Transforming the Public Sector
There is an international public sector. Multilateral cooperation was a feature of the second half of the 20th century, representing a historical reckoning of the nation-state with the growing array of social, political, economic, and environmental issues that affect us all. The composition of this international public sector is varied and evolves; its institutions range from large organizations that are household names, e.g., the United Nations, to smaller regional organizations comprising a few member countries. Areas of broad-based international cooperative activity include (i) political and administrative cooperation; (ii) international justice and law; (iii) international cooperation for development; (iv) regional cooperation; (v) science, technology, and education; and (vi) human rights and humanitarian affairs. At its most common level, namely, that of the country, the composition of the public sector varies. Yet, public institutions typically deliver such critical services as national defense, police protection, public buildings, fire fighting, urban planning, modes of transport, public transit, corrections, taxation, primary education, and various social programs. They might extend goods and services that non-payers cannot be excluded from such as street lighting; that benefit all of society, not just individuals such as parks and recreation areas; or that encourage equal opportunity such as subsidized rent. Sometimes, provision is moved from the public to the private sector. This is known as privatization, which has from the early 1980s taken place on a large scale everywhere in the world. (In other, less common instances, provision may shift from the private to the public sector—health care is but one area where some public institutions now make available, or are experimenting with, goods and services previously furnished by the private sector.) Elsewhere, with differing extents even within countries, areas of overlap exist: this is most often seen in water management, waste management, and security services, among others. To note, the public sector routinely engages the private sector to provide goods and services on its behalf, a practice known as outsourcing.
its range was 45%–55%.)3 What happens in the public sector has major implications for economies:4 since the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, sustainability, and impact of a country’s public sector is vital to national welfare, its organizations and their activities have come under scrutiny. Many consider public services reform the dominant political narrative of the age. Pioneering ideas of entrepreneurial government,5 originating from the United States in the mid-1990s, have been influential, and the public sectors of that country and the United Kingdom,6...