Date: Thursday, November 11, 2010
Any business has to market their company. From retail to pharmaceutical, companies are always trying to show customers they have a great product. In law enforcement the only difference is the terminology, but we are still in the business of marketing. Our customers are our residents, our products are the services we offer, and our profit is keeping the city safe.
Many businesses use marketing agencies to help them craft their message, their look, and how to best use their resources, so why can't a police department? There is nothing wrong with public relations and marketing for policing, you are doing it already, but maybe not well.
Here in Boca Raton we hired a marketing and advertising agency to help us craft our look and message. We created a brand. While all police agencies have a patch and/or logo we created an additional one with an acronym, VIPER, which stands for Visibility, Intelligence, Partnerships, Education, and Resources. All five elements make for a successful police agency. The VIPER logo and newly created Web site, was incorporated into all our collateral, letterhead, business cards, police cruisers, and elsewhere. In today's electronic environment, everything we do should direct people back to our Web site.
Many companies don't shoot from the hip, they actually do research and find out what the people want through focus groups, multiple meetings with a cross section of customers, to ask what they like and dislike about certain products. How many times in law enforcement have we asked the question to citizens: What do you
want? We send officers to neighborhood watch meetings and listen to their concerns, but that is about the extent of it. In Boca Raton we decided to hold focus groups. Over the course of a week we held multiple sessions with a cross section of our community including, business owners, chamber members, HOA members, and citizens. We presented them with a number of branding ideas to get their opinion, because let's face it, just because three people sitting in a conference room like a sign or message doesn’t mean the general public will. The results were telling. Some of the things created that we thought would work in the city were shot down by the groups, others were embraced.
Part of the overwhelming response was a one-stop shop Web site; a site where anyone can find daily briefs, press releases, videos, and mug shots. Our Web site, www.bocaviper.com
, breaks from the traditional law enforcement site and embraces many characteristics of a mainstream one. We also created campaigns with slogans to catch everyone's attention. During the holidays we created the "Watch your Bag Boca!" campaign, aimed at raising the awareness of shoppers to keep an eye on their belongings.
Social media plays a role in public relations and marketing, more now than ever. In many cases social media is a force multiplier. If they follow your department, you can promote your message and drive them back to your Web site and content. The branding process allows you to organize disparate community programs and disjointed communications strategies.