June 1st was National Doughnut Day.
As a blogger and reader of blogs on this site, I read the piece from Officer Mike McCoy
of Houston PD a few weeks ago on the power of using humor - appropriate humor - as an effective way to humanize our agencies through our social media outreach. Officer McCoy is a master at this and I've enjoyed and appreciated his humorous posts for HPD.
In his guest blog, Officer McCoy gave us a heads up about National Doughnut Day, and the suggestion to consider using the age-old stereotype of cops and doughnuts to poke a little good fun at ourselves, build goodwill, and have fun with our Facebook friends.
In anticipation, a few days before National Doughnut Day, I googled some images, found a fun one from The Simpson's TV show and planned to post it June 1st. I never used it.
Sadly, two days before, one of our officers was forced into a shooting with a suspect. The suspect died. No officers or other citizens were injured. However, when an officer is forced to use deadly force, it's often a very sobering time in a community. Regardless of the circumstances, it's also a stark reminder to us in law enforcement that the very mission of our agencies indeed can involve life and death, grief, relief, guilt, and the deepest ranges of the human experience from those inside and outside a police agency.
Not the time to post cartoons.
This should be a no-brainer. And the example I gave, although real, is extreme. I bring it up, however, because as communications experts who use social media, it's a reminder that as we're in touch, we must be acutely in tune. We must constantly be aware of events elsewhere in our city, our state or province, or our world that have grabbed people's interests and perhaps their heart strings. If the power of social networking is to better connect our people to our communities, as in any relationship, we must do our best to be in touch with the sensibilities and sensitivities, sympathies and state of mind of those we're communicating with. Events and perceptions can change daily. We need to stay in tune to be sure we take the proper tone in our communications.
There's lots of ways to do this. Find what works for you. Just be mindful not to let crazy schedules, meetings, and interrupting phone calls distract you from a public communicators most important role - to be in touch with the public.
Back to Doughnut Day.
Humor can be popular - or polarizing. But don't shy away from using it! As Officer McCoy has shared, humor can indeed be a life saver, a stress reliever, a uniquely powerful way to connect using the lighter side of a shared experience. Not to mention, offering what may be a badly needed smile. The point is, use humor wisely and appropriately, with proper tone and timing, and it will be the endearing communication you intended.