W. Michael Phibbs

Using Social Media to build your organization’s brand

How can social media help build your agency’s brand?   Organizational branding is a new concept for public safety.  Every organization had a brand which encompasses more than its reputation. The organizations brand represents everything it values and how it operates.  In your mind, picture the  Texas Rangers, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or London Metropolitan Police Department and an image will come to mind. The image may, or may not, be an accurate representation of the organization.  Therefore, it is an accurate statement to say: You control your organizations’ brand, or you are relinquishing control to someone else.  Social media can help you take ownership of your organization’s brand and increase your overall effectiveness and employee engagement.

To have an effective social media branding campaign your organization must be completely transparent. If your organization is misleading on how it operates or what it values, the negative impact can be insurmountably damaging.  By being honest, a “This is who we are, warts and all” attitude, you can make the connections that develop an effective brand. The conversation started during your organization’s social media branding campaign can help shed light on areas that you need to strengthen or change.  If your past had been difficult, but you made major changes, social media is a great platform to get your message out.

Now, let’s examine how social media can impact your brand in just two areas. As just mentioned, the first area is getting your message out. Before you can build your brand and share it through social media, you must truly know what your organization values.  Does your agency focus on highway law enforcement, strict enforcement of laws over solving problems, community policing, zone policing, sector policing, or another traditional beat style?  There are many more styles; however, each one of those listed has their own unique attributes.  What works well in one community may not work well in another.  When the style of policing fits the needs of the community, agency, and officers, a synergetic connection is created that improves the lives of all.

Congratulations.  You created synergy, but does anyone outside of your region of the world know about your success?  An active social media campaign can take you to the second level of organizational branding.  Your website is your brochure to the world.  Facebook, Twitter, and the others Social Media sites are your connectors that get your message out to your customers, also known as citizens, and the rest of the world.  As your message goes out, you receive information from others back through the same Social Media pipeline. You may receive questions on the success of a particular program, or suggestions to make improvements.   New South Wales Eye Watch Facebook program has been a great success and help build the organizations brand for outside the box thinking.

The second way an active social media branding campaign impacts your organization is who you attract, retain, and repel for employment.  A study completed in 2010 revealed that 30% of public safety officers did not know a significant amount of the host organizations culture before being hired.  Imagine the impact on engagement of a person who up-roots their family and moves several hundred miles to join your organization, only to find that the organization’s culture does not match their expectations or desires.  The new employee’s engagement levels will drop immediately.  Social media can prevent this by creating a realistic job preview of your organization.  This will help ensure prospective employees have as much information about your organization as possible before applying.  The statement has been made, “If we put the information on the web then no one will apply.” This is more of statement about the host organization than the impact of social media.  Your organization may not be socially connected however, the officers are and they talk around the world.  Not telling applicants up front about the culture has a significant impact on employee engagement, as well as fiscal impact on the community when officers give up and only perform the necessary requirements to keep their job.  By not being honest, your organization builds an international brand as a place to avoid.  Proactive organizations build a brand by being introspective and transparent creating a positive international image and become employer of choice.

It is imperative for an organization attempting to get its organizational brand out to strategically use Social Media to connect to its customers, employees, and prospective employees around the world.  The brand is more than the reputation; it is a summation of what the organization values and foundation it rests upon.  Social media makes the connections and creates the synergy that will allow your organization to continue to build on its success.

Sergeant W. Michael Phibbs, Richmond Police

Mike Phibbs has 19 years of police experience. He has received the Police Medal for valor and spent a career developing innovative techniques to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency.  Mike has created a splash in the public safety community in the past few years. He has authored cutting edge articles on organizational development covering such topics as Sector Policing, Employee Engagement, Chief Score and Organizational Branding in Public Safety. His articles have been published twice by the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Virginia Center for Police Innovation, and on line magazines, websites and blogs. He helped developed the Pyramid of Performance Factors which show how an organizations structure and individual officers / firefighters emotional commitment combine to impact engagement and performance.   He has taught at the Virginia conference of the International Police Chiefs Association, Mid-Atlantic Fire Chiefs Conference, and been among a hand selected cadre of national leaders to teach at the award winning Virginia Fire Officers Academy. Mikes social media writing is intended to use humorous stories to show how different leadership techniques can make an emotional impact on individuals and then be used to transform organizations. 

Improving officer intuition through social media

Have you ever talked to a law enforcement officer who recounted a story of his life when he was saved by a sixth sense that something wasn’t right on a call? Neuroscientists have recently started researching intuition, also referred to as the sixth sense, to determine how it works. Based on some findings, intuition expands as the brain learns and stores away new information in the subconscious. The more connected people are to the world around them, the greater the volume of information received and stored for future use. As law enforcement officers continue to connect through social media, they pass on their own insights on their own triumphs and failures. They discuss how they handle various calls, situations that went right and wrong. The information is stored in the recipient’s subconscious brain and may come back as sixth sense, hair rising on the back of neck, intuition that says something is not right and to be prepared. We may find as law enforcement officers continue connecting and sharing their insights around the world that social media may actually help improve intuition and increase officer safety.

In the world of public safety in general, and law enforcement in particular, our minds are constantly receiving information. We take information in from the world around us through routine calls, social interactions with citizens, and our relationships with other officers. Just as important as the general information we receive, we learn what was successful and unsuccessful. Over the years, we store vast amounts of information as patterns of data in our long term memories. As we are handling daily calls for service our brains search for similar patterns of information that correlate with what is happening and compare it to past memory patterns. Through atomicity, an ultra high speed process for moving information from long-term to working memory, we intuitively recall stored patterns of data telling us how we have handled similar situations. As Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking Fast and Slow, “Intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition.” As we handle our calls, we are constantly adding to the stored patterns and building blue prints for future use. Even if a similar incident occurred 12 years earlier, and long removed from our working memory, it is waiting there only to manifests itself at intuition.

Now consider how social media enters the conversation. The internet and social media have now changed how we exchange information. Before the social media explosion, officers learned to do their jobs in their academies, field training officers, their shift mates, and simply doing the job. A slow learning curve existed for officers to build their skills and increase the data stored in their long term memories. The learning bandwidth was narrow and officers have been injured from lack of knowing how officers in another part of the world may have developed more effective tactics to handle certain calls. Officers didn’t have the luxury to get on the internet and immediately connect to other officers worldwide to seek advice. Instead of interacting and learning from a small group of people, the learning bandwidth has now exploded through social media allowing people to connect around the world.

Today, officers read posts, watch videos and participate in forums to discuss situations instantaneously across continents and oceans. An officer in the United States may enter a forum or post on a message board and discuss an incident or video, recounting what occurred to an officer in Venezuela with officers in Ireland and Thailand. Through these connections officers learn new techniques and validate proven tactics worldwide. As we watch a vehicle pursuit on YouTube, have a discussion on LinkedIn, or interact on a blog, we are continually building our mental dossiers. During these discussions, information is processed in our brains and stored in the long term memory for later use. Through social media integration we are able to learn from each other as if we were at the incident ourselves. Imagine a critical incident that occurs which your formal training never covered; however, you are very well connected through social media. Several officers you talk to around the world have had experience that relates to this incident and the information comes flooding to your working memory as intuition, as if you did have the prior experience. Through your automatic downloading and storing of information learned through your social media connections to other officers, your mind provides several options. Your mind says option A did not work in New Zealand, however, Option B worked in Canada and Option C worked in Hungary. You then pick the option that best matches your circumstances. After the incident you interpret this as having a streak of intuition about what to do. The “intuition” was merely your brain recognizing the patterns in others had shared through social media.

Many organizations are still learning to trust and handle social media. There is a fear that officers will learn bad habits or tactics that violate their own cultural norms or organizational policies. Organizations need to utilize social media because it is not going to disappear and will continue to expand and evolve over time. Organizations can be a part of shaping the conversation or they will be relegated to reacting to the conversations. First and second line supervisors should encourage officers to be more connected and expand their perspectives and develop new insights from the diversity of officers around the world. As these conversations grow, officers are becoming more conscious of successful tactics that they may employ or new officer survival considerations to improve safety. As younger, more socially connected officers move up in their organizations the social media trust aspect will improve. Officers connected worldwide will continue to learn from each other and add to their long term memories. In the future, an officer’s life in Europe may be saved through and intuitive feeling that was developed through an on line conversation years earlier with officers in Africa and North America.

We are increasing our knowledge on how the brain works and the process that creates and expands intuition. Through social media we are having worldwide conversations that expand our knowledge of tactics and officer safety issues. We now know intuition is not simply a flash of brilliance but rather, your brain searching for long stored and forgotten information that may save your life. By keeping the conversations going we are in fact helping to keep each other safe.

References:

Helic, Sebastein & Cousieau, Denis. Cognitive Neuroscience of Automaticity: Behavior and Brain Signatures.: http://ccn.psych.purdue.edu/papers/Helie-Cousineau-automaticity_review-final.pdf

Intuition and unconscious learning – Less Wrong: http://lesswrong.com/lw/59v/intuition_and_unconscious_learning/

Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux,

Warren, S. (1997) Remember this: Memory and the brain: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/biology/b103/f97/projects97/Warren.html

Photograph: examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/wysiwyg/image/Brain-Power6.jpg

Sergeant W. Michael Phibbs, Richmond Police

Mike Phibbs has 19 years of police experience. He has received the Police Medal for valor and spent a career developing innovative techniques to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency.  Mike has created a splash in the public safety community in the past few years. He has authored cutting edge articles on organizational development covering such topics as Sector Policing, Employee Engagement, Chief Score and Organizational Branding in Public Safety. His articles have been published twice by the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Virginia Center for Police Innovation, and on line magazines, websites and blogs. He helped developed the Pyramid of Performance Factors which show how an organizations structure and individual officers / firefighters emotional commitment combine to impact engagement and performance.   He has taught at the Virginia conference of the International Police Chiefs Association, Mid-Atlantic Fire Chiefs Conference, and been among a hand selected cadre of national leaders to teach at the award winning Virginia Fire Officers Academy. Mikes social media writing is intended to use humorous stories to show how different leadership techniques can make an emotional impact on individuals and then be used to transform organizations. 

Using analytics to gauge your social media impact.

Image: http://latesttechworld.com

You can view the use of social media without application of proper analytics tools through the axiom of the old story: A wife and husband were driving on the interstate. The wife asks, “Where are we going?” The husband replies, “I don’t know but we are making great time.” Using social media to get your message out is only a small part of the process. In order to make social media work, you not only have to be able to decide the correct platform for sending messages, but also, how to select and use the correct analytics to determine if you are hitting the right targets. You must know how to gauge if your social media efforts are being successful in order to determine the return on your social media investment,

At Police Department A, the Major in charge of the media relations department is incredibly pleased with the results from the latest surveys showing the impact of department’s social media campaign. Crime may have spiked in one area, due to a string of robberies, but with the use of social media to get the message out, the citizens responded and their help led to the capture of the criminal. In this department, they use  analytics to gauge impacts of their social media messaging in order to help tailor the message platforms for different neighborhoods.

Now, consider the situation at Police Department B. The Chief comes into the media relations department and simply states crime is down, but social media has been a failure. The county manager is going to pull the funding for the initiative if it can’t be shown to be effective. Confused by the statement, the director of social media replies, “For the report, do you want us to combine numbers for all projects, targeted neighborhoods, heat graphs showing area coverage, individually map points or all combined?” The chief simply says, “Yes” and walks out the door.

A single law enforcement organization may well need to use several different social media platforms to get its message out to their communities. The proper platform is dependent on the base makeup of the communities who use various social media is different ways. For example, to serve and connect to the community, an organization has a number of platforms to choose from: direct emails, electronic fliers, blog posts, websites, Facebook, Twitter, or even stay with simple face to face officer to individual to get its message out. But once you find the right social media platform to get your message out, you best not think your work is done. This is the point at which many social media programs derail. You have to determine if your efforts are being successful. You must gauge how much of your target audience received the messages, and then if they acted on the message. Use targeted site analytics to determine your coverage and then the impact of your message on the individuals who make up your communities. You will see if you are making connections, and building the desired relationships, between law enforcement and the community through cyber space. Then, as necessary, you make adjustments to better use the platforms to get your message out.  Without using the correct analytic tools, you are truly operating blind.

Excellent analytical platforms exist that can help you gauge your social media impact. They have varying costs, and can be simple or complex. Before deciding which you will use, first, ask what you wish to discover and monitor, and then how to make sense of the data you will get. How do you want to see your data presented? Do you want heat maps to graphically see your coverage area, straight data numbers, “pings,” two way blog communications or some other way? The choices can be daunting and require extensive homework to choose the right one for your situation. There are over 200 analytical tools on the marked today to include:

  • Google Analytics: Shows how many people went to your website and where they stayed the longest. Are people reading what you want them to read? Did you hit or miss with your organizations website? Remember the website is your brochure to the world.
  • TwitSprout: Ranks your top tweets and number of times retweeted.
  • TweetyFeet: Basic dashboard for multiple sites and lets you know immediately when someone is using one of your tools.
  • HootSuite: Manage your activity from several social media platforms in one place.
  • Reinvigorate: Heat maps graphically show the segment you are hitting.

Even the best analytics provides only so much data; it is the human intelligence from your officers who give greatest insights and confirmations as to your level of social media success. For instance, when you are using social media to alert the community of specific crimes in an area, the commanders see will see any changes in real numbers. Then the question is, did the message make the community aware of the problem, and did they help to resolve the issue? Commanders and officers can talk to the citizens and learn if social media did influence the community in resolving the crime issue. During community meetings, commanders can discuss the social media platforms and see if the community has the ability, interest, or understanding to use them. The feedback may show social media messages being missed by a particular segment of the community, highlighting need for the police to teach the citizens how to use social media. Working with the community in this manner fosters trust in the community for law enforcement.

A street level officers can hand out flyers to citizens on where to find crime tips through the organization’s social media sites. More than anyone else in the organization, they have the ability gain feedback from individuals in the communities and bring back ideas on how platforms are working in area. They can help in the targeting of specific neighborhoods for social media training. But more importantly, they will be asking citizens if they have used the social media sites to learn information from the department to better protect themselves. The one-on-one conversations provide the meat on the bones of the analytical tool framework. The conversations help open the communication pipeline, while the analytics help gauge if the citizens are receiving the social media message.

Simply implementing a social media strategy to get your organization’s message out is only half the battle in an effective social media campaign. You must be able to see if you have been successful. From the outset, your organization must determine what it wants to measure and then choose the appropriate analytical tools. You cannot simply pick one over another without understanding the reach of each one. You might be able to get by with a simple analytic or find you require one that measures many platforms at once. The goal is not to simply go on a social media journey, but to also know when you have arrived at your destination.

Start the discussion: Social media can make seconds count when the police are only minutes away.

A message saying “If you need help you’re on your own for a while” would rightly panic the community. Public trust would be shaken and the chief would likely be out of a job.  Citizens believe if they are being assaulted an officer should be only seconds, not minutes away. In reality, at the first sign of trouble it takes minutes for officers to arrive. A citizen must first place a call. The dispatcher then gathers the information and places it in a queue with a set priority. Finally, the officer who is assigned the call must decide the best physical route to get to the person who placed the call.  This all takes time; time the citizen did not anticipate, but the offender likely did. Offenders know they have time before responding officers will arrive. They also know the greater the distance between them and the victim, the better chance they have of getting away with the crime. Together, we can now use social media to stop crime before crime happens.

But crime occurring in our communities now goes way beyond the physical realm where someone takes an item or assaults another person. While mail fraud has been around for a long time, crime now occurs at the thickness of a hair and width of a fingernail. Our citizens are connected at the speed of light through fiber optics to people around the world and these connections allow someone to be victimized through long distance contact. We have all seen internet scams that made the news because they were successful. The average citizen needs to know how to protect against crime in the cyber world, and this for us becomes a new responsibility. It is not acceptable for law enforcement agencies to say we can’t protect people, particularly from internet crime. Therefore, our agencies need to understand the different social media platforms not only to fight crime, but to warn against criminal schemes as well as go out to community events and show people how to change the settings on their computers to better protect themselves from being attacked.

Traditional communication methods used between police and citizens are becoming an anachronism.  Our sense of communities has changed. People are as likely to hang out in their cyber neighborhood as they are in their actual neighborhoods. As a force multiplier, social media can significantly impact the treatment of crime in a community. By integrating social media into its overall communications strategy an organization increases its ability to look for crime by the number of observant eyes in the community. The closed minded will argue, “We have been doing this with National Night Out”, or “We use emails to warn the citizens of crime.” As successful as National Night Out has been, look at the number of people who attend versus the number of people who live in the community, and look for way to connect to more people.  By using social media, law enforcement can connect to the people who don’t want or are not able to hang out with their neighbors. But don’t they have a vested interest in improving their communities? Emails do get information out, but it is in real time? Social media platforms can provide real time information to residents on issues and potential treats to their safety better than websites can. Think of a website as a traffic cop directing the person seeking information to the right resource or like a library to give you basic, static information.

Websites can be great as a brochure for your organization, but are hard to use as stand-alone social media platform. There are hundreds of different social media platforms one can use.  Facebook and Twitter can be used as the work horse for immediately connecting people. Police / Community Facebook pages can be used as a posting board for informing people of crime safety tips, any suspicious activities, arrests; or, as a platform for officers and citizens who may infrequently talk in public to discuss their points of views on different issues. Twitter could be used to connect citizens with the beat officers 140 characters at a time. By using the hash tag #Your Neighborhoods Name Here anyone can be instantly alerted to suspicious activities in the area. People can tweet a picture of the activity to officers, dispatchers and the rest of the community. The technologies allow everyone to be a crime fighter in their own way, as part of a neighbor action team or an individual who simply wants to improve their neighborhood. Together, individuals connect with their neighbors and police to create a new definition of community team which interacts face to face and in cyber space.  When thinking about the different uses of social media to improve services an organization is only limited by its imagination and fear of new technology.

It will always take minutes for officers to respond to calls even when seconds count. But we can significantly improve our services by embracing the latest technologies available in social media platforms.  We develop a deeper sense of community by embracing social media as a strategic tool to improve connections between officers and citizens.  Instead of having to say, “When second’s count the police are only seconds away”, it is better to live, “I am one person connected to my community; together, we are one in preventing crime.” Such can be the power of social media.

 

Sergeant W. Michael Phibbs, Richmond Police

Mike Phibbs has 19 years of police experience. He has received the Police Medal for valor and spent a career developing innovative techniques to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency.  Mike has created a splash in the public safety community in the past few years. He has authored cutting edge articles on organizational development covering such topics as Sector Policing, Employee Engagement, Chief Score and Organizational Branding in Public Safety. His articles have been published twice by the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Virginia Center for Police Innovation, and on line magazines, websites and blogs. He helped developed the Pyramid of Performance Factors which show how an organizations structure and individual officers / firefighters emotional commitment combine to impact engagement and performance.   He has taught at the Virginia conference of the International Police Chiefs Association, Mid-Atlantic Fire Chiefs Conference, and been among a hand selected cadre of national leaders to teach at the award winning Virginia Fire Officers Academy. Mikes social media writing is intended to use humorous stories to show how different leadership techniques can make an emotional impact on individuals and then be used to transform organizations.