Tag Archives: public relations

Victoria Police Department: Strategic planning that integrates social media

In my last post, I blogged about how public opinion—and trust—is formed according to the way police use (and communicate their use of) technology. This week’s post isn’t a direct sequel, but more of an exemplar: how one agency has implemented a strategic plan that integrates social communication.

Having participated in a client’s strategic planning process this past summer, I took notice of a tweet from the Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) Police Department in mid-November:

Strategy that involves public opinion

To some degree, VicPD’s strategic plan reminds me of Boca Raton’s VIPER program. Visibility, Intelligence, Partnerships, Education, and Resources are, however, more public relations-focused than VicPD’s five-step plan, which takes into account both internal and external issues: operation effectiveness, recruitment and retention, communication improvement, regionalization, and partnerships with other community groups.

Constable Mike Russell, VicPD’s public affairs media spokesperson and social media officer (as well as a former community resource officer with Edmonton, Alberta Police Department), says the plan had been in the works for nearly a year before its launch.

The result: a strategy that spans 8 years rather than the typical 3 to 5. Developed into a 16-page, image-driven brochure, the plan is “a living document,” its online counterpart a bare-bones microsite. That’s because it seeks to crowdsource direction: for community members to collaborate with the agency, helping to determine how their police will function.

To that end, Russell says, the agency intends to use QR codes and social media to establish an ongoing dialogue with the public. They will also update the microsite’s videos, goals and action steps four times a year.

Brainstorming ideas that lead to action

“Our chief and the planning facilitators took us on a different journey than we’re used to, a peer to peer process where rank doesn’t matter,” Russell says. “It was about the questions rather than the answers, so we were given carte blanche for brainstorming.”

Indeed, Russell says the feedback has been made intentionally informal in the plan’s early stages, in order to encourage relationship-building and to avoid bureaucracy within the public forum. “We divided our community into sectors, with people made responsible for each,” he explains. “Then, we began to encourage the citizens to bring their ideas to the working groups.”

Each working group has a lead manager who oversees four police officers and one civilian. The managing inspectors are ultimately responsible for implementing action items, but act as facilitators for their groups to find the right avenues to go down.

Part of that is police differentiating between service provision, rather than delivery—and asking citizens to think in the same terms, basing their ideas off that distinction, which puts police in much more of a “helping” rather than transactional frame. This allows everyone to talk about problems in terms of solutions.

Finding community-specific solutions

For example, within three days of beginning the planning process, Russell says certain themes had begun to emerge. “Regionalization [Step 4] was the biggest,” he says. “And while we didn’t set out to create silos, we found ideas running up the middle with outliers on either side.”

This is particularly important in a community where demographics are shifting. Baby boomers, who are retiring from the workforce in greater numbers, will shift their public safety priorities accordingly. Meanwhile, young people need a format in which to participate effectively.

That’s why planning involves best practices research, including who should do it and how to adapt, train on, and implement their recommendations for police.

Another important piece: recruitment and retention of people who can mirror the community itself. As Russell says, “The organization’s makeup hit a bubble where 1/3 of the people are all retiring in a short timespan. When that happens, all their experience goes away.”

VicPD seeks to hire and train people with many different communication styles, the better to move public relations forward. And, because the agency wants to ingrain social media throughout its operations, it wants people who can focus on taking part in conversations (rather than being technically savvy), which Russell says “brings empathy” on all sides.

Publicizing VicPD’s new focus

Russell says that in lieu of a traditional ad campaign, news media have been helping to generate awareness around the plan—but that word of mouth and social media have been especially crucial in spreading the plan’s content around.

“We’ve changed the way we’re doing social media from a newsfeed, to tweetups and other ways to create personal connections,” Russell explains. “Some of the best conversations happen off hours, in the evenings and weekends.”

VicPD has not yet seen these conversations translated into an offline space; coffee dates, announced on Facebook and Twitter, have not gotten much response.

Finally, Russell says, although VicPD plans to learn from police in other countries, “We’re not looking to do the same thing as everyone else. For example, we’ve seen both right and wrong examples of how to handle the Occupy movement worldwide. The key is to be open and honest with people, not contrived, which many people find offensive.”

Has your agency ever participated in strategic planning for its future? What did that process look like for you?

Occupy policing, Part II: Setting — and conveying — the right tone

Occupy San Francisco RallyOn LinkedIn last week, I posted an item to several of my groups about how the Philadelphia Police Department cleared the city’s Dilworth Square of Occupy protesters. I received a LinkedIn message asking me what it had to do with social media or the Internet, and rather than respond one-on-one, I thought it would be valuable to go into greater detail here.

To start with, PPD actually did use Twitter to get its message out to Occupiers. More than that, though, was the way PPD commanders engaged in careful planning, including:

  • Reciting the First Amendment at each roll call.
  • Restricting officers from carrying pepper spray or Tasers, and assuming sole authority for the decision to use force.
  • Reminding officers to be ready for citizens to film them.

These measures were notable enough, but what also stood out to me was the way communications planning took into account the way protesters themselves were communicating:

During the trip to Center City, Karima Zedan, the department’s director of strategic communications, monitored the chatter on social media of a building police presence at City Hall. Zedan and Ramsey discussed whether they should send the occupiers a message through the department’s Twitter feed, which they knew the protesters monitored.

“What we should say is just what our goal is, and that’s to safely remove people so construction can begin,” the commissioner said.

As Ramsey’s Car 1 arrived at City Hall about 1 a.m., Zedan sent the tweet.

Indeed, PPD’s Twitter feed from that day was filled with tweets about, and to, Occupy:

It was not all that dissimilar to an October 10-11 effort in Boston, where police moved protesters from an unapproved encampment near an original, agreed-upon site:

Boston Police communicated to protestors the request to vacate the 2nd encampment and return to the original site numerous times throughout the evening via Twitter, flyers and in person [as well as its blog]. The required police action resulted in the arrest of 141 individuals who were charged with Unlawful Assembly or Trespassing.

The agency’s Twitter feed, while more repetitive than Philadelphia’s, similarly used hashtags and other community-oriented language and tone:

For BPD, which has been on the forefront of social media use (including a personal approach rarely seen in law enforcement tweets), this style of communication was not unexpected… although I believe it could’ve been less defensive. See the difference between BPD’s messaging tone, and PPD’s?

Defensive, derisive or merely dismissive: How tone affects your message

Again, simply using Twitter to communicate with Occupy protesters is not the point. While I do, as I said in my last post, wish police were using their feeds more proactively, the fact that communication is being built into encampment removal plans at all is important.

The New York Times’ graphic of the evolution of riot gear shows that communication with protesters was poor and inflexible in 1968, but had given way to negotiation and flexibility by 1995. Although communication is, unfortunately, not mentioned by name in 2011, indirect forms of communication are: managed protests via the permit process, along with “regular use of intimidation.”

It’s these indirect forms of communication that can affect a blog post or Twitter feed, too. In contrast to Boston and Philadelphia police tweets, @RichmondPolice’s appeared to want to downplay any mentions of Occupy by limiting their tweets — even as police bulldozed encampments on Halloween. (Three of those tweets were directed to people who had addressed them first; several of those, directed to the same person.) No Occupy hashtags were used, and the tone (“We’re sorry you have an issue…”) borders on dismissive.

These kinds of nonverbal communication speaks volumes about police officials’ collective approach to people in a certain situation. Look at the way officials in each of these three cities spoke about protesters:

“These people are not criminals,” said Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan, who oversaw the operation. “They are not our enemies.” (Philadelphia)

“We continue to encourage the leadership of Occupy Boston to maintain an open dialogue with authorities in the spirit of coordination and cooperation.” (Boston) (To be fair, less than two months later, Police Commissioner Ed Davis was quoted as saying, “[There are] drugs, vandalism and assaultive behavior. [$723,000 in police overtime is] a significant amount of money…. [which] would be much better spent in neighborhoods where there is firearm violence.”)

Meanwhile, a brief Google search revealed that Richmond police had little to say beyond the fact that nine arrests took place. Again, it would appear that they were trying to downplay the protests in their city.

The work of relationship building

Some believe that police are not there to understand or to communicate with Occupy protesters; rather, their job is to investigate crime and remove encampments when ordered to do so. Indeed, PoliceOne.com reports that police went undercover at Occupy Los Angeles, collecting intelligence on any potential threats to law enforcement.

Even at that, according to the L.A. Times: “From the outset, department officials had struck a collaborative, friendly stance with protesters, and believed they knew what to expect from them [when police stormed the park]…. ” That work paid off; the LAPD was widely praised for its restraint in removing the encampment.

It’s notable, as the Times further reports, that police invited clergy and legal observers to witness police-community interactions. That is not the mark of a police state, nor are agencies that seek to understand the mistakes of others in order to avoid them.

What Philadelphia’s effort showed was that, if police want to avoid reinforcing this belief, any communication plan should not just include logistics — who will communicate, via what channels, how often, etc. — but also careful assessment of:

  • What emotions they may inadvertently convey. Even something as short as a tweet can read sarcastic or condescending. Professional police shouldn’t allow this to happen, but are still human, still experience frustration and irritation. Make sure your bloggers, Twitter users and videographers understand how miscommunication can hurt relationship-building efforts, especially in sensitive parts of your community.
  • Whether the right people are communicating. Most law enforcement agencies would rather maintain control over their messages by restricting the number of people who can send them, but think about officers who know particular communities or issues better than any other. Consider having them contribute to, if not outright create, content on behalf of your agency.
  • How much information you can reasonably transmit, taking into account ongoing operations. Law enforcement agencies are no different from other organizations in their desire to avoid liability. However, a tight communication policy won’t protect your agency from a lawsuit if there are deep systemic problems, and citizens value information — the more of it they have, the more comfortable they feel. So consider sharing what you can about what you do, even if this requires a sustained effort with long-term planning.

Occupy protesters may be, compared to other areas of a community with deeper and longer-standing problems, a nuisance to be dealt with before moving on. But they remain members of the community, and they’ll remember how police approached them — via Twitter, in person, on a picket line or even as part of their group. Whether their memories are positive or negative will drive how they interact with police in the future to solve public safety problems. And so, even when police stick to their core mission, the tone in which they communicate their efforts remains critical to their success.

How has online or in-person tone shaped your interactions with people in your community?

Creative Commons License photo credit: breyeschow

Political pressure? Refer to your values

pressureIt’s been said that social media “amplifies” whatever an organization’s values are. If a company is all about pushy sales, so will be its social efforts. If it seeks long-term customer loyalty based on relationships, its social efforts will reflect that too.

Likewise among police departments. An agency that respects its citizens enough to communicate with them and make them partners in crime-solving will show that online. An agency that has no respect for citizens… well, it might have Twitter and Facebook pages, but it either won’t use them regularly, or won’t use them appropriately.

That’s why it’s so important that the Huntington Beach (Calif.) Police Department resisted city council member Devin Dwyer’s plan to use the department’s Facebook page to “shame” drivers arrested for DWI. An Associated Press article noted:

Police spokesman Lt. Russell Reinhart said that since launching its Facebook page in November, officers have found it to be a valuable way of getting information to the public and soliciting tips on tough cases.

A couple of DUI suspect mug shots have been posted, but they were from egregious cases where police thought the public could be at immediate risk from the suspect. Reinhart fears Facebook fans could be turned off by the routine public shaming of all repeat DUI offenders.

This is not just a gut sense on his part, but rather one based on page analytics: “Our social media presence is just a few months old and we have had a steady growth of fans and followers,” he told me. “The administrative side of Facebook shows the number of views and impressions is growing steadily as well.  The feedback is all positive from our community.  Using those tools as a measurement, we are doing the right thing for the right reason.”

Different definitions of “public safety”

This debate shows how critical it is for goals and strategy to come before the tactics. If you jump on social media without knowing what you want your public to take away from it – and then, what you want them to do with the information – it will be harder to articulate why a politician’s demand “feels wrong,” and easier to cave to that demand.

This is especially true when the demand is grounded in a different perspective on public safety. As it turned out in a council debate, the issues on both sides are complex. Among the council members’ reasons for opposition:

  • Posting pictures, even of habitual offenders, could shame families as well as offenders and increase the risk for bullying or cyberbullying of kids who have tried to hide the family secret.
  • Huntington Beach, having marketed itself as a fun tourist destination, should not hurt that image by appearing to be a “Footloose” kind of town.
  • Conversely, the additional publicity could hurt the city’s image by showing it has a DUI problem.

On the other hand, Dwyer himself pointed out that he had received many letters of support from families with alcoholics, who told him that shaming could be another tool in a family’s – and a community’s – intervention toolbox. He also felt that the shaming could be part of the agency’s own arsenal, together with existing saturation patrols, training for restaurant/bar owners and servers, and other prevention methods.

Social presence starts with values

HBPD was able to disagree because it had already decided on how to use its Facebook page. “We never disagreed on the public safety issue of those individuals on the road who are DUI,” Reinhart says. However, “Shaming is a form of punishment and law enforcement’s role in society is not to hand out punishment.” Posting all DUIs, or even all habitual offenders, could dilute the page’s overall focus and distract fans from paying attention to public safety as a whole.

Indeed, the Associated Press article went on to note other agencies that have tried – and then rescinded – similar policies. Meanwhile, the council elected (largely, Reinhart says, to end the media “hype” around the issue) to allow the department to continue to use its discretion with its Facebook postings.

Reinhart says of this experience, “For other agencies using or considering social media my recommendation would be to anticipate political pressures on how it should be used and be prepared to support and defend your position. This is no different than the debate on how we dedicate and use all the resources we have in law enforcement.”

At the same time, as Reinhart says, “Social media gives law enforcement the opportunity to help the community we police know the realities, both strengths and weaknesses, of our role in society.” This means that police departments must tread carefully when communicating those realities. People can misconstrue intent via social channels just as traditional media have in the past.

Again, it comes back to values. Transmit those through social and traditional media, and people (including local politicians) will know what you and your agency stand for – for better or worse.

How are you building agency values into your social media work?

Creative Commons License photo credit: smemon87

In a crisis, communicate short-term for long-term goodwill

law enforcement crisis communications

How will you respond to criticism of the way you handle a high-profile case?

An iPhone prototype lost, found, and then sold. A police raid on the home of the blogger who broke the story. In a public relations crisis that is largely eclipsed by the much bigger issues of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and Wall Street fraud, the Silicon Valley-based Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) Task Force is facing criticism for two issues:

First, fears that it violated California’s journalist shield law. And second, that iPhone’s developer Apple, which sits on REACT’s steering committee, influenced the task force’s actions to too great an extent.

Compounding this, REACT seems as ill-prepared to respond as any law enforcement agency that is unused to widespread public criticism. That, I’m afraid, is a much bigger problem than most police might envision. But I’ll get to that in a second.

Messaging vs. communication during crisis

REACT doesn’t have a social media presence, other than an intermittently updated blog. The guestbook on their website has been taken over by criticism, however, in much the same way as Nestle’s Facebook page was by Greenpeace activists.

To REACT’s credit, they aren’t taking the criticism down (assuming they even know about it), but beyond that, haven’t said much. They’ve left communication to the public information officer at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, their “home base”:

To the extent that high-tech companies or other entities would send representatives to the meetings, they are considered members of the committee. While our records have not shown its attendance as of late, Apple is similarly situated as other companies or entities, which have open invitations to attend committee meetings at any frequency.

Meanwhile, task force leader Michael Sterner was quoted as saying that it was “not uncommon for investigators to make use of intelligence from firms’ internal security teams or to consult with companies’ security personnel as cases move forward” but that the task force does not “take directions on our investigations.” San Mateo chief deputy DA Steve Wagstaffe reminded reporters that Apple was the victim of a crime — a week after the controversy started.

In my opinion, these statements don’t go far enough. They don’t take into account the task force’s actual day-to-day work, its role in combating high-tech crime, the other cases they have worked since their inception — part of whose conditions was a private-sector steering committee. (One wonders if this in itself is the underlying basis for the criticism.) A lot more is in play here.

Crisisblogger Gerald Baron writes about the role of politics in a crisis:

“…the crisis managers [at BP and Goldman Sachs] involved in working these two humongous issues right now, will have a very significant impact on the long term decisions that elected officials will make in these two arenas.”

So, too, decisions affecting REACT and task forces like it. Recall the Heartland data breach, the Google data breach, and others. Breaches like these can lead to intellectual property theft as serious as laying hands on an iPhone prototype. They can also lead to identity theft, as when private personal and bank information in a company’s servers is sold. These affect everyone – not just the companies themselves.

Thus the need for police-private partnerships. In fact, many companies don’t involve police; they’re afraid of bad PR, and they risk that a breach dealt with quietly behind the scenes won’t evolve and go public. Police are working to change these attitudes, but they can’t do it without developing relationships with those companies.

And implications that police-private partnerships are inappropriate won’t help.

A social alternative to traditional crisis communication

media relations during crisis

Fast, clear, accurate communication is necessary during crisis

An ongoing high-profile investigation is the last thing most law enforcement administrators want to comment on, especially in the real-time social web. However, consider that numerous outlets already are doing so. Thus even if a response cannot talk about the case itself, it can work to mitigate the less wholesome coverage. Hint: that wouldn’t involve getting a subpoena to take down a news article.

So what if REACT had a social presence? It might take some lessons from a counterpart further to the northeast.

The Sacramento Valley High Tech Crimes Task Force has been, at least since 2003 when I first started working with one of its detectives, very media-friendly. This culture is driven by a desire to inform and educate the public; this desire in turn led to the task force’s social presence. Detective Dan Brown daily posts information about cyber crimes like identity theft, trying to educate his publics about threats and how to protect themselves.

In short, he talks about the same hard-to-understand issues that led to the task forces’ creation. So I asked him to speculate on how he would handle it if it was Sac Valley, not REACT, that was involved in the search. Here’s what he had to say:

I would address the question and in this way: The steering committee is made up of 52 law enforcement agencies and approximately 42 private businesses of the “high technology” industry and various financial entities.  The purpose of the steering committee (in summary) is to review task force activity and provide advice, recommendations, strategic input and direction for “task force consideration.”

With about 42 private entities involved, no one entity has more influence over the other and we have not experienced an extreme amount of pressure from any one entity.  The task force operates solely on state grant funding and requires no monetary contributions from any of the private entities.  The task force respects the advice and recommendations of the private industry committee members but we are not beholden to any private corporation.  In the end we make the decisions.

Fortunately, we have a great relationship with the private industry side and are of the same mind on most issues.  So our committee is made up of members who simply want to combat hi-tech crimes.  Political influencing and the pushing of individual agendas has never been an issue; furthermore, it would never be tolerated.

Note that Det. Brown is an investigator, not a PIO. That’s why it can be a mistake to defer to the “home” agency’s PIO, whose responsibilities are much broader than what one task force is doing. That person may have only the barest-bones idea of what a task force does and what it means to the community.

Ideally, then, it will be a task force representative managing task force social sites, and working hand-in-hand with the PIO – and, if necessary, legal teams – to communicate rather than message.

Social strategy and crisis communication

social media crisis strategy

A good communication strategy can keep you from being sunk

When I first started writing this post, I thought it would boil down to strategy. A social presence set up solely to educate, I imagined, would be within its rights not to address bad PR. It would not want negative comments to dilute its educational content stream, or to drown out its longer-term message – especially if its resources were as limited as many agencies’ are.

But social culture is rooted in two-way communication. As many companies and law enforcement agencies broadcast, feedback continues to be important to their publics. Indeed, President Obama’s administration has been criticized for “[seeming] to imagine that releasing information is like a tap that can be turned on and off at their whim.”

This in contrast to his campaign, in which he and his staff tapped into social networking culture to drive a grassroots support for a variety of changes—among them, better government transparency. Thus inconsistent communication fails to generate or maintain trust just as much as no communication.

Which was behind Det. Brown’s response to my question about how he would handle social criticism:

As far as Facebook goes I think I would entertain critical comments as long as the language was appropriate for our younger fans.  I would address each comment as quickly as possible and with the utmost professional tone.  In the case where someone just can’t be satisfied or reasoned with, I would not continue in a back and forth debate, which almost always ends in a negative and unprofessional way, and consider removing the comments.

While our main purpose is to inform and educate, it would be a mistake to operate in such a manner which the public would keep us under the same ole law enforcement stereo type “not approachable, silent because we are hiding something, not truthful in our endeavors, etc.”

I want to improve communication between our task force and the community we serve.  There is no better way for a hi-tech crimes unit to communicate with the members of their community than on the computer.  I believe if you are going to reach out using social network mediums, you should be ready to converse with anyone who contacts you.  Be accessible, appear approachable and be willing to engage.

This means that above all, don’t just be on Facebook and Twitter because everyone else is on Facebook and Twitter. Know what you’re doing there, have a plan for crisis communication, and be the calm in the storm. That’s what builds trust that when you act in the interests of one segment of your community, you’re acting in everyone’s best interest.

Do you have a social crisis communication plan? Tell us about it in the comments!

Images: Ernst_Moeksis, alex-s, & Amanda_M_Hatfield via Flickr

Why I’m bored with social media

When it comes to social media, are you waiting for something more?

I’ve had something on my mind for awhile: the shiny object has lost its luster, and I’m getting bored.

A year ago Amber Naslund was blogging about this: stop talking about how great it is, she wrote (I’m paraphrasing), and get to work figuring out how to use these tools. Lately I’ve read Tamar Weinberg and Sean Moffitt blog frustrations similar to mine, and so I need to speak up too.

I’ve been feeling stuck in a rut for some time, because there’s only so many times you can point to a police department or task force that is totally rocking social media and say, “They’re doing it right.” First of all, “right” is defined by so many different variables: resources, staffing levels, staff willingness to socialize, public willingness to socialize back.

Second, I’m finding that the police departments “doing it right” are generally the same ones who are doing policing right. They already know how to work with the press, interact with their publics. If they feel they need that little bit of extra online impact, they hire a PR agency… but it was because they had the underlying pieces in place, first.

As so many PR and marketing people have pointed out, social media/Web 2.0/the Internet is just the latest in a set of tools meant to help us all connect more easily with the people we serve. With regard to police departments, these tools facilitate information sharing. If an agency doesn’t want to share information, no blog or Twitter page in the world can help change that.

There are, to be sure, different rules. The Web is still relatively anonymous, or if it isn’t, people are used to thinking of it that way (and thus posting whatever is on their minds). Officers walking down the street off duty don’t identify themselves, so if they’re drunk and puke on the sidewalk, it’s not the same as drunk tweeting that you just puked… with your badge or blue twibbon or whatever identifying yourself as a cop.

Still, as I wrote a command officer on the LinkedIn group Law Enforcement 2.0, if you expect your officers to abide by professional conduct policy offline, if you trust and respect them to be responsible and they trust and respect you right back, you probably won’t have a problem online either – and if you do, it will be easier taken care of than rampant reputation-management problems.

A few months ago I interviewed a longtime source/collaborator about his “secret sauce” when it came to relationship-building. He’s the kind of guy who, when I tell other sources that Kipp said they should jump, they ask “How high?”

And yet he’s not using social media — other than his LE-only listserv, the only online tool he needs for what he IS doing: building relationships with other investigators, with the media, with pretty much anyone who might be able to help him down the road and vice versa.

Not to mention the public. He goes out and gives presentations to seniors and other high-risk victim groups. Just as with the investigators, when they need someone they can trust for advice, who are they going to call?

Folks, that should be your focus. Never mind about how often to tweet or how many people to follow or fans to attract or who should be doing the blogging. The questions are, how do you and your officers interact with people — each other and the public — offline, and how do you want to translate that online? What will make a Twitter or Facebook or blog presence able to continue your offline work?

Hint: it’s a force multiplier, but I don’t mean in terms of “spreading your message.” One cop in a coffee shop can reach maybe a dozen people, but put him on Twitter in the coffee shop, tweeting about who he just talked to and what public safety problem they want him to solve, and you’ve got a couple hundred or more followers who might just be able to offer their take on how you can best serve them.

Sure, it’s scary. It demands humility: what 30-year professional wants to be told by non-cops how to police them? But if relationships are all about compromise, then you’re not just there to deal with “the customer is always right”; you’re there to help them understand when they can and can’t have what they want, what you can and can’t do, and why.

Open communication leads to respect, and that’s been true of police departments since the beginning. In the recent past, chiefs who had good strong relationships with media could count on positive as well as more critical press, and as long as officers were on the streets interacting with everyday people, they could count on public trust as well.

Still, cops are fundamentally cynical about relationships and trust, and sometimes they’re right to be. Social media changes nothing about that. It takes as much hard work as any other form of communication, and it won’t solve problems overnight. And I guess that’s the biggest reason why in coming months, I’ll be focusing less on social media and more on what makes it tick:

I’m afraid that the way police understand and use it right now, it won’t make as much difference to law enforcement as so many of us believe it can.

Thoughts?

Image: Jayel Aheram via Flickr

Presenting to community groups? Share!

After the presentation, put the slides online

After the presentation, put the slides online

Blogging about LinkedIn last time, one thing I neglected to mention was that LinkedIn allows you to “plug in” other applications like WordPress blogs, travel itineraries, Amazon.com reading lists, and Twitter feeds.

Those are pretty personal details. Unless your blog and your reading list are purely work-related, you might hesitate to plug them in to a professional profile. And who wants to tell the world when your family will be home alone while you travel to a conference?

Two LinkedIn applications, though, do deserve mention and merit for law enforcement use—especially those who regularly present to the public about crimes like identity theft and Internet safety. The SlideShare and Google Presentation applications allow you to embed your slide decks directly into your profile.

How sharing slide decks helps you

In the first place, posting your slide decks online helps your community. Not everyone can make it to your evening presentation at the local high school or senior center, and even if you can present more than once, that still doesn’t guarantee reaching everyone.

Making your presentation available online means that not only can absentees see it; anyone in the community can share it with family and friends, in or outside of the community. Think about the reach that has?

In the second place, sharing your slide decks helps your agency. Post them online, and the public affairs office doesn’t have to approve your in-public presentations, or field calls from people asking for help on “frequently asked questions.” Well, maybe they do… but your slide deck(s) make it easier for them to point to good information.

Same for when you hear from other cops who need presentations on your topic but don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Not only do you not have to email them the presentation; they can use it the same way you do: to inform citizens who can’t make it to their talks.

For one client, I didn’t just post slide decks to SlideShare; I then embedded them on the company’s main website. Depending on the deck, I could’ve embedded them in a blog entry, too. They’re a good way to provide visual content without having to deal with video, and embedding them in several places—website, blog, LinkedIn profile—means they are spread around the web, increasing the chances of their being seen.

This is important. If you know enough about your topic to present on it, then making it more available online means it’s easier for people who need your expertise to find you. I know, this makes a lot of cops (and their administrators) uncomfortable. But again, if you’re presenting in public, you’re already putting yourself out there, making those personal connections. Using the web amplifies your efforts.

A word about effective slide decks

Poorly presented slide decks can backfire, which is one reason why their use gets mixed reaction from professional speakers. Make sure yours get the message across without detracting from your live presentation, or being too vague and confusing when shared online. A contradiction? Actually, I recommend ThinkOutsidetheSlide.com and its companion blog. These ideas are expressed much more effectively there.

There is no good reason not to allow officers to put information out for public consumption of all kinds of topics. Slide deck uploads can help both the department and the individual officer, branding the officer’s professional career and “expert” status at the same time that it brands the agency—not only as a trustworthy source of information, but also as one that can be trusted to hire the right people.

What kinds of presentations can you start sharing today?

Image: Lachlan Hardy via Flickr