Social media can seem like a rather "fluffy" or unimportant activity — especially when compared to the crime-fighting activities justice professionals regularly engage in. But social media can be a critical part of solidifying your agency's relationship with the community you serve — if it's done well.
Join us for this recorded webinar as Kate Kimble, PIO from the Fort Collins Police Department, returns to share:
- The importance of telling your organization's story
- How to tell stories that will engage your audience
- How these activities help to build your agency's reputation.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Kate, help us understand… what do you mean by “humanizing” your agency?
Kate Kimble: When people think of law enforcement, they think of a badge. A gun. A patrol car. They often don’t think about the daddy, husband, little brother, best friend, soccer player, cook, artist, musician or anything beyond than the symbols that represent law enforcement. Government work has been veiled in mystery for a long time. Social media has given us an opportunity to pull back the curtain and show our communities that those working in the justice field are real people with hearts, families, feelings, and lives beyond the jobs we do.
By telling our stories,
we can take distant communities and pull them in.
Once we’re nearer to each other,
we’re better positioned to have real conversations
about things that matter.
JCH: Why is humanizing justice agencies – whether it’s a sheriff’s office or a District Attorney’s office – important?
Kate: People are hard to hate up close. By telling our stories, we can take distant communities and pull them in. Once we’re nearer to each other, we’re better positioned to have real conversations about things that matter. Use of force. Procedural justice. Difficult social issues. By humanizing our agencies, we also build trust equity. When our residents regularly see us as humans trying to do our best to serve, they’re more inclined to give us the benefit of the doubt when we fall short.
JCH: What are the biggest mistakes agencies make when using social media to humanize their agencies?
Kate: Picture this scene: you’re in a social/professional setting – a meeting, a luncheon, a conference. People at your table are chatting comfortably about a variety of business and personal topics. Just wanting to be liked, the socially tone-deaf guy across from you shares an offensive joke. He’s the only one who laughs. Awkward silence ensues. Later you learn that he’s a presenter, but you can’t separate his commentary from his content.
Humor is an amazing tool to engage people and remind them that you’re human, but it can also fall flat and hurt your credibility if you’re not careful. Don’t be afraid to be funny, but follow these cardinal rules:
- Avoid joking at the expense of others. Truly making fun of someone’s flaws isn’t funny. It’s just mean. Friendly banter with other agencies is okay (hello, police vs fire jokes), but when in doubt, err on the side of being nice. People like nice.
- Know the landscape. If you’re going to be funny, it’s imperative to stay current on local, regional, and national events. Social issues and hot-button topics are emotional powderkegs – steer clear.
- Let someone else read it. If your mom gets offended, other moms will too. If your teenager doesn’t think it’s funny, well, it’s probably a dad joke…so definitely run with it J
- Apologize if you miss the mark. Sometimes the best of intentions don’t pan out. We are, after all, human. If you miss the mark, take ownership and correct it quickly.
Humor is an amazing tool to engage people and remind them that you’re human,
but it can also fall flat and hurt your credibility if you’re not careful.
JCH: Many people think of social media as just something fun to do … but it’s a REAL profession that takes work! What do you think the biggest misconceptions are that other justice professionals/counterparts have about the role people like you play?
Kate: Creating interesting, engaging content takes time. A LOT of time. You want people in this seat that can effectively represent your agency to thousands – and potentially millions – of people. Digital information travels fast, and your social media messages will reach far beyond your community. Crafting a meaningful online persona is an effort that takes communication skills, cultural competency, and sometimes quick thinking. We use social media for a few reasons, but the payoff comes when residents feel more comfortable interacting with our organization because they feel like they know us. The payoff comes when we find ourselves on the front page of the paper for a controversial issue and it doesn’t kill our brand. The payoff comes when a critical incident occurs and people turn to us first for information because they know we’re there and we’re engaged.
It’s tough to constantly generate creative content, but if you’re in charge of running social accounts, tap into existing trends and pop culture. For example, Twitter’s trending topics will always give you a goldmine of popular hashtags and weird holidays to capitalize on. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, you can always share some #MondayMotivation, share a picture for #NationalSelfieDay, or jump on the #FridayFeeling bandwagon.
I’m going to share a lot of real-life examples (good and bad) and content generation tips during the webinar, so I hope you’ll join us!