Is your social content building relationships or barriers?

As law enforcement agencies compete with other newsmakers for ever-shrinking media attention, the ability to tell their own stories in their own way can be very important indeed.

It's always hard to present technical details in a way that makes sense to nontechnical people, and MPD is right to use its blog this way. But in the digital age, even despite their demand for greater scrutiny on government, people suffer from “information overload.” Stimulating content breaks through self-imposed filters.

But often confused for “stimulating” is “drama.” Any publisher, whether news organization, police department or individual, must beware not to fall into the numbers trap: page clicks or ratings are poor metrics for engagement, and high numbers don't indicate concern.

Communication as bridge-builder

Greater public scrutiny demands better relationships—the fundamental goal of any social media usage, no matter the channel. New modes of communicating with the public should supplement, not replace, traditional modes; they should take into account all the different ways, and in all the different circumstances, your public prefers to receive information.

As a general rule, media-police conflicts shouldn't drive general communications policy unless administrators understand the full, real and potential, impact to the community. Simply counteracting misperceptions is only one part of the issue. Other parts include (but are not limited to):

  • Whether the people running your social accounts can adequately explain your side, in a way your community can understand.
  • Whether a back-and-forth will help or hurt. Remember, people tend to tune out drama after a certain point—when it ceases to lead toward a constructive conclusion.
  • How addressing one problem will affect other communications, especially emergencies. If you cut off the media (doing away with press briefings, radio access to calls and after-hours access to detectives, etc.), will you be able to reach everyone you need to, when they most need to be reached?

Rather than build and maintain barriers, use your communication policies to strengthen the lines that work, deconstruct lines that no longer do, and replace them with better ones. That's what makes your agency a trusted community leader for the long term.


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About The Author:

Christa M. Miller is a freelance writer based in Greenville, S.C. She specializes in law enforcement and digital forensics and can be reached at

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