Today’s guest post comes from Sergeant Dave Norris who has been with the San Mateo, California, Police Department since 1993. After serving in a variety of positions including Field Training Officer, Narcotics and Vice, and Investigations, he is currently assigned to Community and Media Relations. The position oversees SMPD’s Police Activities League, Civilian Volunteers, Neighborhood Watch, Plan Review for CPTED, School Resource Officer Programs, and “other projects as directed by the Chief.” He also handles Public Information and Social Media, having expanded SMPD’s Community Alert outreach from an email list of about 300 to over 13,000 direct subscribers across a number of social media platforms.
At the recent IACP Conference, I noticed some amazing things being done by very talented folks all across the nation and (very effectively, I might add) by our Canadian "neighbours". There was also a popular curiosity about how to start a social media strategy for your law enforcement agency.
I work for an agency of about 115 cops, in an assignment that could be described as "assigned to public information, along with everything else coming out of the Admin Wing that is not tied down" - in other words, a one-cop-shop...
I wanted to reflect lessons learned for agencies struggling to assign the task, and those freshly assigned to the task (and still scratching their heads). The following is the beginning of a short series on the research, set-up, and development of a social media strategy from scratch.
Like many others thrust into this assignment, I came into this knowing a lot more about chasing bad guys than I ever knew about media, communications, or computers. That being said, we cops don't like to lose a fight, do we? So here's how I dove in...
Put Your Antenna Up
Listen ... Listen for the rumblings of what your Command Staffers have seen at the latest convention or trade show - what products are out there for social media? What are your neighbor agencies using? Are there free services already up and running, with subscribers already waiting for you? Look for model protocols and policies – many are available through www.iacpsocialmedia.org
Don't reinvent the wheel... Subscribe to Nixle, Twitter, Facebook, NextDoor.com, and any other media formats being used in your area. Follow and take notes - model what you like, modify what you don't.
Take Your Time
Make sure your chain of command knows that there's a process to follow. Remind them that you and your agency are going to want your message to be right when it goes through to the public - as much as you would in a high-profile press conference, if not more. Because - just like a live press conference, once the social media info is out there, it's out there!
Remember to constantly mind your scope – the social media assignment can quickly take on a life of its own. Constantly monitor your capacity and keep your chain of command looped in about it.