Tag Archives: podcasting

There are no 10 codes in blogs

How well will you understand officers in other agencies when you need each other?

Fifteen years ago when I was a police Explorer in New Hampshire, I remember quite a debate over using 10 codes vs. plain English. 10 codes protected information from nosy reporters and civilians; plain English was less confusing for emergency responders, especially during incidents requiring multi-jurisdictional response.

All are arguments coming up yet again, as some agencies debate over whether to switch to plain English radio communications. In the years following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, as this NPR story points out, many have already switched; this PoliceOne.com article furthermore points out:

In December 2006 the National Incident Management System (NIMS) issued an alert mandating that first responders use plain language in multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency response. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) established the Plain Language Working Group in April 2009.

What does this have to do with social media?

David Konig at PIO Social Media Training notes, with regard to blogs:

While your target audience may understand specialized language, acronyms, and regional slang it is important to remember that they will not be the only ones looking at what you create. Not communicating using common terms will limit the ability for your message to be understood by a broader audience.

Jargon is easy to slip into for a variety of reasons. You can’t think of how else to describe something, or you’re talking to someone else who you know (or think you know) will understand what you mean, or – subconsciously – you may even be trying to show you belong to a certain group.

But think about the points raised by former prosecutor and trainer Val Van Brocklin in this Officer.com article about cops “talking funny” on the stand. “When you talk like that,” she writes, “you sound like somebody who’s full of himself or who’s trying to hide the truth in a mountain of syllables – both are stereotypes we do NOT need to be reinforcing with jurors.”

Making the switch

Transitioning to plain English has been difficult for law enforcement agencies. It’s been talked about for at least 15 years if not longer, took five years after 9/11 for NIMS to create a directive, and another three years after that for the OEC to establish the working group.

So don’t expect to be able to to use it right away in your blog or podcast. It may even seem unnatural after years of speaking an almost legalese-type “language.” But do practice. Van Brocklin’s approach: practice with flash cards. Write one jargon phrase on the front, and a plain-English phrase on the back. Practice with your spouse or even a child.

For a blogger, though, this may not be enough. Certainly, the spoken word can reinforce the written, and vice versa. But if you plan to write regularly, you should practice writing too.

Creative writing teachers sometimes give an exercise: write something from the point of view of a person who is explaining an incident to their best friend, their mother, their spouse, their boss, a group of strangers, and yes, the police.

The exercise is meant to put a writer more solidly into the mind of the character he’s writing. But for a blogger, it should put you more solidly in your reader’s minds. Because you’re writing (or podcasting) for all those people, to get them to really think about what you say, you need to speak in terms they understand best.

How often do you slip into jargon? Can you practice “plain English” at least once per day?

Image: chargrillkiller via Flickr

Writing not for you? Try podcasting

The Saanich, BC police use DailySplice podcasting to connect with their community.

The Saanich, BC police use DailySplice podcasting to connect with their community.

Not everyone is a writer. I get that. No, really, I understand. Although I think best when I’m writing, many days the words don’t come easily. Even when I’m simply transcribing someone else’s words from an interview. It takes time to capture context, whether it’s the jumble of your own thoughts, or something that came out of a dynamic conversation.

Not everyone has the patience or the time or, yes, the skills to do that. In fact, most of the law enforcement officers I have ever worked with are more comfortable on the phone than emailing their thoughts to me.

I am not. On the phone I ramble. I can’t edit my thoughts, refine what I mean (at least without confusing the other person). And listening? I have to be able to write down what I hear. Otherwise my attention wanders.

I just described what writing is to many people. Writing, to them, means throwing their thoughts down on paper, then growing frustrated when it doesn’t read like the great magazine article they just read. Reading means wandering thoughts, a line that reminds them of something they have to do or something they experienced.

Enter podcasting

Just as many people don’t have time or energy to write, many don’t have time or energy to read. (Even me. My Google Reader count is in the 700s.) But podcasting is easier for them to digest. It helps fill the time during repetitive tasks or work that doesn’t require much attention, or for that matter, commutes.

This one reason why the folks at DailySplice.com are focusing on law enforcement. Why is this valuable? Mainly because podcasting is an underutilized tool among police.

A few months ago I talked with Rian Bowden, co-founder and CEO of DailySplice, about what they help agencies do. He provided four examples:

The advantage: “Rich media which allows commanders to maintain authority as primary information sources in any situation,” says Bowden. This is important because sites like YouTube, with their additional content, can be distracting.

Because the DailySplice interface allows for real-time updating, it can be a valuable way to balance the rumors and misinformation that start to appear on other real-time sites like Twitter and Facebook.

In fact, because the podcasts are syndicated via RSS, they can be “plugged in” to Facebook and other sites. And civilians who subscribe to a cast’s RSS feeds can share the content just as easily as they can status updates—without needing to sign up on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else (except perhaps with a feed reader).

Cops 2.0 coming to podcast?

Podcasting is a great way for people who prefer to talk to reach people who prefer to listen. For those who (like me) feel like they’re talking to themselves, there is the interview format, like the ones I did for Inside the Core and more recently, with Mike Waraich and Lauri Stevens for DailySplice.

DailySplice has invited me to set up an account and podcast more frequently. While I have to figure out how it will fit for me and my business strategy, I plan to join in future discussions, and meanwhile the DailySplice website offers a number of resources including webinars.

Might a podcast be a better fit for your agency than blogging?