The Social Media Beat

Improving Your Agency’s Brand, Online Persona, and Engagement with Your Community

Improving Your Agency’s Brand, Online Persona, and Engagement with Your Community

By: Dave Norris
Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dave Norris

Dave Norris is a sergeant with San Mateo, California, Police Department.

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Today’s post is the ninth in a series of blog posts highlighting IACP 2013 social media workshops. This post is about the Social Media 2.0: Improving Your Agency’s Brand, Online Persona, and Engagement with Your Community session on Sunday, October 20.

Lieutenant Zach Perron from the Palo Alto Police Department and Lieutenant Chris Hsiung from the Mountain View Police Department work closely together, both in terms of proximity and collaboration, in the heart of the Silicon Valley. “Are you listening?” they ask, “Because conversations in the community will happen with or without you.”

The Philosophy of Social Media

Social media is a “philosophy,” not a tool - closely related to community policing, but certainly not a silver bullet. Chris and Zach implore agencies to integrate social media into their organization’s community engagement philosophy.

Police agencies should take the lessons they have learned in managing voice and tone in community meetings and front of the cameras of conventional media journalists, and apply them to the messaging they are doing through social media. “Consistency in voice,” they said, “is CRITICAL.”

Acknowledging that every agency needs to find their own identity, Zach and Chris provided us with a glimpse into the personalities of Palo Alto and Mountain View Police Departments.

Engaging with the Community

Palo Alto PD is one of the best agencies online at interacting with the tweeting public. They operate in a perfect environment for exploration of online police interaction. Their public in Palo Alto is among the most educated and connected in the nation. @PaloAltoPD’s advice:
     •    Be professional, yet humorous
     •    Be human whenever possible
     •    Be competent and confident
     •    Be approachable – NOT cop-like
     •    Don’t abbreviate or use jargon – use complete sentences
           o    The occasional emoticon (professionally done) is OK
     •    Communicate immediately, accurately, and with authority
     •    Use social media to “front load” critical information on hot public safety issues
Zach also impressed the importance of  monitoring social media chatter in your city – find out what’s going on in your town, and engage with your community by “mentioning,” “favoriting” and “retweeting” as appropriate.

Palo Alto PD has demonstrated this level of understanding and connection with the community through a series of highly successful virtual ride-alongs. These events have featured various divisions within the department, and have been filled with informative quips and witty interaction with the public through their popular Twitter feed.

Chris followed with a couple of great case studies on public interaction, safety messaging, and strategies on generating followership. The City of Mountain View houses the Shoreline Amphitheatre, a popular concert and event venue, as well as being the hometown of Google and LinkedIn’s headquarters. Chris has done some extensive research on social media communication and generation of followership – from a marketing perspective. Mountain View PD’s philosophy is to look at social media as a venue to community information and engagement, and Chris took what makes some of our biggest national commercial brands successful, and applied it to @MountainViewPD’s social media output.
Tactical Use of Social Media

MVPD’s case study on the “Beyond Wonderland Concert” at Shoreline Amphitheatre showed the effectiveness of well-placed safety messages in anticipation of an event. Use of Instagram was key, as MVPD recognized it as the main social media platform for the concert-goers and promoters. MVPD used increased followership throughout the event by posting safety reminders, followed by well-placed information on undercover operations and arrests designed to keep rave-crimes like ecstasy sales and use to a minimum.
Creating Efficiencies, Forming Partnerships

Chris also talked about a creative way to create departmental efficiencies through Pinterest. This social media platform is tailor-made for lost-and-found items that help the agency clear out needless clutter in their Property Unit. In a second case study MVPD noticed a local major CIO “checking in” at one of Mountain View’s big-box retailers. A reach-out to the CIO via Twitter not only connected them with a Twitter user with a huge “following” (known as a “digital influencer”), it created a relationship between a local company with potential to be a massive resource and the local police department and its chief.

Creating Agency-Wide Buy-In

Chris and his staff have created a culture of comfort with law enforcement social media (Chris describes this as an “Ecosystem”) that few agencies have been able to duplicate. The social media staff shares successes, and posts some of the officer praise and public feedback on a real bulletin board. This has been an effective approach to maximize interest among the troops. Mountain View also spreads their social media features to include specialty units like K9, SWAT, and Motors – highlighting officers gives them a boost, and helps to reinforce the advantage that social media can provide bringing positive community attention to the department.

Lieutenants Perron and Hsiung jammed an enormous amount of good content into their two-hour presentation. They included an extremely well-received overview of the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group – a collective of over 50 Bay Area law enforcement agencies sharing training and best practices on social media.
Speakers’ Presentation:

Perron and Hsiung
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    About This Blog

    So you have found, or perhaps stumbled upon, The Social Media Beat, the blog for the IACP Center for Social Media Web site. The Social Media Beat is about three things: social media, law enforcement, and perspective. Here you will find a fresh outlook on the issues that are affecting law enforcement agencies and their personnel when it comes to social media.

    Social media is taking the world by storm. Social networks, blogs, photo and video sharing sites, and virtual communities are changing the way people live, work, and play. These tools present unique opportunities as well as challenges to the law enforcement community.  The Social Media Beat brings together a team of bloggers who will speak directly to you about hot topics and current issues.

    Bloggers include IACP staff and practitioners in the field who can provide a unique front-line perspective. Our team cares about social media and wants to ensure that law enforcement across the country are knowledgeable and well-equipped to incorporate this technology.

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    About the Authors

    Dionne Waugh

    Dionne Waugh is the Digital Communications Manager for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, which is the largest, full-service sheriff’s office in the state of Colorado. Prior to that, she spent more than six years creating and leading the Richmond, Virginia, Police Department’s social media efforts, which led to international acclaim and recognition.

    She has spoken about law enforcement and social media at more than a dozen conferences across the country in addition to four IACP annual conferences. Waugh is a former newspaper reporter who wrote about crime, police, and the court system for several years. That experience and an ingrained curiosity for what makes people tick has fueled her desire to improve communication between people. Follow Dionne on Twitter @JeffCoSheriffCo.

    IACP Center for Social Media

    IACP's Center for Social Media serves as a clearinghouse of information and no-cost resources to help law enforcement personnel to develop or enhance their agency's use of social media and integrate Web 2.0 tools into agency operations. The Center is funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Leon Robertson

    Officer Leon Robertson is the Social Media Coordinator for the Hampton Police Division. Robertson has developed internationally recognized public safety messages, including the Jingle Bells “Holiday Safety Remix” in December 2013. He has extensive experience in graphic design, video & audio production, and managing various social media platforms. You can follow Officer Robertson’s efforts with the Hampton Police Division on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

    Tracy Phillips

    Tracy is a Senior Project Specialist with the IACP. She is responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of the Web site and coordinating the site's social networking plan. In addition, Ms. Phillips provides writing, editorial, and technical assistance on a variety of association projects and activities, including police management studies, job analyses, executives searches, federal grants, and various research projects and proposals. She has more than 10 years of experience in state and local government, including work as a management analyst, performance auditor, and crime analyst. Ms. Phillips holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Georgia and a bachelor's from Clemson University.

    Want to hear more from Tracy Phillips? Follow her and the Discover Policing team on TwitterFacebook, and on the Inside Discover Policing blog. You can also network with other police recruitment professionals in the Law Enforcement Recruitment LinkedIn group.

    Zach Perron

    Lieutenant Zach Perron is the public affairs manager for the Palo Alto (CA) Police Department. Zach was a 2014 visiting fellow at the IACP in the Center for Social Media. He serves on the steering committee for the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group (BALESMG), and is a member of the US. Department of Homeland Security's Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG). He holds a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Stanford University and is now pursuing a graduate education at the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California.  You can follow him on Twitter: @zpPAPD.

    Dave Norris

    Sergeant Dave Norris is a 21 year veteran of the City of San Mateo Police Department. He has worked in a number of positions including Juvenile Detective, Field Training Officer, Narcotics Detective, and Patrol Supervisor. Dave is currently assigned to Community and Media Relations and oversees day-to-day functions that involve the relationship between the police, the community, and the media. Dave is dedicated to the increase of community engagement through the use of social media. Under his management, San Mateo PD's direct subscribers to community alerts and public safety messaging has grown from several hundred to over 22,000.

    Chris Hsiung

    Captain Chris Hsiung commands the Field Operations Division at the Mountain View Police Department in California. Through the department Community Action and Information Unit (CAIU), he manages strategy, community engagement, and growth through the police department social media channels. Chris has been serving the Mountain View community for over 19 years and has held a variety of assignments within MVPD. These include detective assignments in Property Crimes, Person Crimes, and High Tech Crimes as well as collateral assignments on SWAT and the Field Evidence Team. He also serves on the planning committee for the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group (BALESMG). You can follow him on Twitter @chMtnViewPD.

    Lynn Hightower

    Lynn is the Communications Director and Public Information Officer for the Boise Police Department and has served in that role since October, 2003. Lynn also serves at the PIO for the Boise Fire Department. Lynn authors and manages the social media outreach for Boise Police and often acts as media spokesperson. She advises officers from patrol to command staff on media and public communications skills. Lynn joined the Boise Police Department after 17 years as a television reporter, producer, anchor, and news director. Lynn regularly instructs new officers at the Boise Police Academy and has given media and public communications presentations to dozens of federal, state, and local emergency responder agencies. Follow Lynn and Boise Police on Twitter @BoisePD.

    Billy Grogan

    Billy Grogan is the Chief of Police for the Dunwoody Police Department in Georgia. Chief Grogan was hired on December 17, 2008, after serving 28 years with the Marietta, Georgia, Police Department, to start a brand new department. On April 1, 2009, the Dunwoody Police Department began operations with 40 sworn officers and eight civilians providing police services to the 47,000+ residents of the City of Dunwoody. Chief Grogan embraced the use of social media from day one of operations. The Dunwoody Police Department began using Twitter the first day and has added Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Vine to their arsenal since then as effective tools to market their department and engage their community. Chief Grogan has written about the benefits of law enforcements use of social media, participated in several social media focus groups and lectured at the IACP, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, COPS Conference, and many other venues. Follow Chief Grogan on Twitter @ChiefGrogan and the Dunwoody Police Department @DunwoodyPolice.

    Mark Economou

    Mark Economou is the Public Information Officer for the Boca Raton Police Department in Boca Raton, Florida. His media and public relations background spans nearly 20 years. Spending nearly 15 years in radio and television news, Economou held many positions from assignment editor, reporter, anchor, and executive editor. After that, he served as the Director of Media Relations for Cote & D'Ambrosio, a Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising firm in Wickford, RI. He then served as head of Media Relations for Citizens Bank of Rhode Island, the 9th largest bank in the United States. Follow Mark on Twitter @BocaPolice.

    Frank Domizio

    Corporal Frank Domizio has been with the Philadelphia Police Department since 1997. He is currently assigned to the FBI’s Regional Computer Forensics Lab as a Forensic Examiner. Previously he was assigned to the Department's Office of Media Relations and Public Affairs where he was the Social and Digital Media Manager. Frank has spoke at several industry conferences and major universities on the topics of social media and content strategy.

    Tim Burrows

    Tim Burrows was a sworn police officer for 25 years with experience in front line operations, primary response, traffic, detective operations, and supervision. He has training in a broad spectrum of policing responsibilities including IMS, Emergency Management, computer assisted technology investigations, leadership, community policing, and crisis communications. Tim left policing but has remained involved through consulting with law enforcement on the advancement of communications and social media. Tim runs #CopChat on Wednesday nights at 9pm ET, to allow police and community members to connect and break down barriers. To learn more about him you can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook or click here to contact him

    Guest Blogger

    The Social Media Beat periodically features guest bloggers who share their perspective on the topic of social media and law enforcement. These individuals are law enforcement professionals; sworn and civilian personnel from agencies of all types and sizes throughout the world. If you are interested in guest blogging, please send your request to All bloggers must be affiliated with a law enforcement agency or educational institution. We cannot accept blog entries from vendors or others working in a for-profit capacity.

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