Planning for a “social” G20: Toronto Police Services

Police guard Legislature Building, Queens ParkThe June 2010 Group of 20 (G20) summit in Toronto did not go altogether differently from G20 summits in other cities, notably London and Pittsburgh – with one exception: in Toronto, police used social media to a level not previously seen.

Central to Toronto Police Services’ success: careful planning and execution before, during, and even after the summit. Cops 2.0 authors Laura Madison and Christa Miller talked with three people heavily involved in these activities – Marco Battilana, Constable Wendy Drummond, and Sgt. Tim Burrows.

Planning: People

During the G20, the Public Information Unit (PIU)‘s normal approach to communication – one Burrows calls “multi-pronged,” involving both internal and external public relations – changed.

“A multi member team made up of representatives from the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) Partners and many police services across Ontario formed the information team,” says Burrows. “We all worked together across mainstream and social media venues to bring up to date information to all members of our communities.”

The TPS officers’ roles did not change by much. Although all can use social media in the course of their duties, only two – Burrows and Constable Scott Mills – focus their energy on its use. (Burrows, who works with the Traffic Services Unit, describes his role as “parallel” to the PIU.)

“Scott Mills has been identified as the Social Media Officer for the Service and he works in the PIU offices with the other Media Relations and Public Information Officers,” Burrows says. During the G20, Burrows and Mills were assigned social media tasks, each officer working a 12-hour shift so that the TPS could provide 24-hour coverage and monitoring of social media platforms.

Likewise, the other officers generally stuck with their usual tasks. For example, Drummond says her role as media relations officer makes her more hands-on: “responsible for liaising with the media on a daily basis, providing updates on current investigations, and creating public safety alerts to ensure the public is armed with information to which they can adjust their own actions and decisions.”

But because the TPS was part of a much larger ISU, these roles still needed the guidance of someone skilled in directing large-scale public communications efforts. That fell to Marco Battilana, a web communication strategist with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) E Division. In that role for about two years, Battilana had been called to Vancouver to assist the ISU in charge of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Overseer of both internet and intranet environments, he had developed the V2010 ISU website and social media presences from scratch, maintained the intranet site, and monitored and reported on each environment’s analytics, along with other duties. These duties were similar to what he does for the RCMP E Division, where he also trains media relations officers on content management.

The experience led to his being called on for the Toronto ISU. “With V2010 ISU, I already had an idea of what types of social media personas there would be: Supportive Government Partners, Anti-Establishment, enthusiasts, media, etc.

“Even before 2010, I had already been monitoring Beijing 2008’s social media efforts and was formulating how to improve. Having an idea of the different personas definitely helped me with planning my G8 / G20 experience and how the G8 / G20 ISU Public Affairs Communications Team (PACT) could have a positive influence for all involved.”

Page 1 of 6 | Next page