Reflecting on the year
Little did I know that these worries were going to quickly subside, and be replaced with new, bigger worries — worries the size of a global pandemic. In March, travel came to a screeching halt. Initiatives to implement the brand seemed so trivial in the face of COVID-19, so they stopped.
Like many Oklahomans over the last year, I searched for toilet paper, navigated virtual learning with my kids while simultaneously working from home, and attempted to adjust to the “new normal.” In the grand scheme of things, I had it pretty easy. I know many Oklahomans battled unemployment, struggles with childcare and a host of other challenges that I was fortunate enough to avoid. That privilege is not lost on me, and I’m exceptionally grateful.
For many state employees, the “new normal” meant a new level of commitment to serving Oklahomans. It meant ramping up COVID testing and ultimately vaccination capabilities. It meant increasing our digital capacity by 900 percent to support remote working. It meant a complete overhaul of our unemployment services. It meant finding new and innovative ways to serve in the midst of a global crisis.
While we all were feeling isolated, state employees (virtually) came together. Agencies that had never engaged with each other were suddenly joined at the hip in order to keep Oklahoma running. And a symbol of unity surfaced, the logo. It started showing up on state agency websites and social media profiles and press conference backdrops and yes, even masks. Years of effort to seed the brand were bypassed almost instantly as state agencies became beacons for it. And then the ball really started rolling…
In a new remote working world, our multifaceted brand and “hub of America” messaging took center stage. A brand that we now believe will attract talent to our state for decades to come.
We were able to implement the brand at our state Welcome Centers, through a remodel to support social distancing and sanitation requirements, as well as to bolster the struggling tourism and hospitality industry.
We were able to modernize 25 state agency websites to help Oklahomans digitally engage with their state, using a common design framework that showcased the brand. Signage around the Capitol went up. Building entrances became much more colorful and welcoming.
We’re not done yet. We have some exciting plans — including a merchandise website that benefits Oklahoma classrooms and some great public/private partnerships in the works.
I’d like to extend my most sincere thanks to the state agencies that have pioneered the effort to implement the brand, under some of the most trying circumstances. It’s a testament to our state employees that are so dedicated to serving Oklahomans and advocating for our state, pandemic or not.
When it comes to what Oklahomans can accomplish when we come together, the possibilities are truly endless.
Matt Pinnell is Oklahoma's lieutenant govern or.