The police are really between a rock and a hard place as the situation continues to flare up ....
This post is really about communicating during a crisis and how social media has changed how it's done. It's really simple .... it's something I've written about before. To stay relevant you have to do four things all at one:
- alert: let people know what's going as soon as you can using mobile and social media
- okay ... besides a bullhorn and riffles ? any other comms tools at your disposal?
- Hey, that nice LRAD (long-range acoustic device) mounted on that nice tank-like APC ... you can talk through that right ? Not just send out ear-piercing noises ...
- You've heard of Twitter maybe ? (not a key tool for the St Louis County Police Department (which was heavily involved in the "muscular" police response)
- respond ... that won't change but be conscious you're on camera ... media and public scrutiny is heightened a million-fold because of social convergence
- What works better to diffuse a situation when the world is watching: a line of geared-up cops ready for a patrol in Afghanistan or Iraq ... or officers in the day-to-day uniforms ...engaging with the community?
- It's not really cool to go after reporters ... not usually a sign of transparency and openness ...
- Monitor ... listen on social networks to see how people/key stakeholder are reacting and gain a better understanding of the situation
- If social media is transforming a local issue into a national or even a global story ... YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IT !
- You could even gather some actual investigative intel out of listening !
- But mostly, it's a good idea to see how your response is being perceived in real time ... especially by people who you'd think would understand ... like veterans.
- And, if you have anything even remotely to do with the crisis ... DON'T IGNORE IT ! It's something that could be damaging.
- engage ... dialogue ... maintain effective comms channels with key stakeholders and the public ...
- dialogue is the only sure avenue toward building trust ... a hard thing to do when pointing a gun a protestors ... and even harder after blaming the victim (even if you later say it had nothing to do with the deadly encounter ...)
- That need for dialogue is something the Governor of Missouri recognizes ...
- You have to find a way of explaining your actions ... keeping the public informed while maintaining operational security of course ... they are not opposing principles.
So, is this easy ? By no means ... I only wish we can all be as ready as we can to communicate when all hell breaks loose and our organizations are in the spotlight!
Good luck !