Mar 24, 2015 | Linhart Blog, Our Business

Five Social Media Lessons Brands Can Learn from the Denver Police Department

I had the good fortune of attending a PRSA Colorado event last week titled “From Crisis to Measurement: Social Media Best Practices.” One of the presenters was Cmdr. Matt Murray from Denver Police Department (DPD). For the past seven years, Cmdr. Murray has served as a spokesperson for the DPD, commanding the department’s media relations unit and marketing/social media group. The DPD’s social media efforts have been recognized by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as a “Bright Idea,” and DPD has one of the top 10 largest social media followings among law enforcement agencies worldwide.

And, while it may not seem like a leading metropolitan police department would have much in common with consumer brands, the social media best practices Cmdr. Murray shared are universal. Here are a five to consider for your brand or organization:

1. Extra! Extra! Break your own news. Thanks to social media, the media will never be first to break a DPD story again. Using social media, the DPD breaks its own stories, which means the DPD is control of the messaging and timing. Brands have this same opportunity. Think about your social media channels as your brand’s newspaper. These channels are your opportunity to tell your story how and when you want to tell it!

2. Play show and tell. Every week Cmdr. Murray distributes a social media report to every commander in the DPD. Why? It’s simple – these reports merchandise what Cmdr. Murray is doing and why it’s important. The reports show not only what’s being communicated through social media, but also how many people are interacting with that content and what they’re saying. Merchandising social media activity and wins is key for brands too. Ensuring your stakeholders understand the power of social media and how it’s being used to communicate with consumers (and future consumers) is paramount for communicating the value of social media and getting alignment on your social strategy.

3. Don’t underestimate the power of “fluffy bunnies.” The stories that Cmdr. Murray sees go viral aren’t the salacious crime stories. They’re human interest stories, or what Cmdr. Murray calls the “fluffy bunnies.” We’re all hungry for positive news. What’s more is that we need these stories for relationship-building. They yield the relationships needed to sustain through a crisis. Same goes for brands. If you have developed a loyal and engaged social following, those same people will be there when you need to communicate during a crisis. Thanks to the relationships you’ve built with them, they’ll trust what you have to say and listen. They may even go one step farther and come to your defense – few things are as powerful on social channels.

4. Don’t be a scaredy–cat. According to Cmdr. Murray, one of the biggest pitfalls during a crisis is being scared. Crises are usually uncharted territory, which can lead to a fear of doing the wrong thing. This can often result in doing nothing or a delayed response. Neither serves the DPD well, and the same goes for brands. It’s ok to be scared during a crisis. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a time for inaction. Instead, it’s a time when people need more than ever to hear from you. Cmdr. Murray’s advice during these times is to:

  • Always tell the truth
  • Admit when you’re wrong
  • Say what you’re going to do to fix it

If this seems simple, it is. It also works.

5. Metrics are your BFF. Cmdr. Murray tracks how every single social post performs. Why? Because it’s the only way to know what works and what doesn’t. And, this is the only way to truly build a social media strategy that meets your business and communications objectives. Cmdr. Murray knows which types of posts perform best and even what time of day he’s likely to get the most engagement on a certain type of post. There’s no reason brands can’t and shouldn’t do the exact same thing. What’s more, social channels often offer these metrics for free. The DPD doesn’t spend a dime on metrics and your brand doesn’t need to either. Learn them, use them, love them.




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