Guest Blogger: Saul Jaeger, Lieutenant, Mountain View, California, Police Department
Any police leader will tell you that traffic issues — collisions, congestion, speeding, even parking — are one of the leading points of consternation in their community. An increase in enforcement, sting operations, and saturation patrols are all common solutions to try to mitigate the issue.
But are those solutions really effective? At the end of the day, we’re talking about changing driving behavior. So, what does this have to with social media?
The answer has three components: reach, education, and humor. For example, a police department trying to slow drivers down decides to conduct focused enforcement at specific, high-volume collision areas throughout their city. During a five-hour operational period, the team issues 50 citations.
Those drivers who received citations are certainly affected. Those affected will likely talk (or complain) to one other person about getting a ticket. That’s potentially 100 people talking about speeding.
While people talking about enforcement efforts helps get the word out and can potentially positively impact traffic safety, how, in a city of 80,000 or 100,000, can your department make a bigger impact?
Consider a different approach that harnesses the popularity of digital media: make a funny video, talk about it on a podcast, live-cast part of the operation, post some photos, or even host a Tweet-a-long or a Snap-a-long, all while the operation is going on.
In other words, get the word out and do it creatively. You will reach so much more of your community. Instead of just affecting the people who received citations, you now have the power of ultimate reach via your department’s social media pages. The news will be shared and liked, residents will comment, and before you know it, not only will they be following you, they’ll be listening to your traffic safety messages.
1. Use officers who don’t shy away from being on camera and have a good video editor on hand – while officers may want to go in front of the camera, they may need a few takes.
2. Communities love to be part of the action and be in the know. Consider putting out the
locations of the operations. Don’t worry about tipping your hat; go ahead and pull the curtain back a little.
3. “Traffic safety” is too broad. Be specific. Make sure you have a clear theme regardless of the channel you use.
4. Utilize what’s around you and incorporate recognizable figures (i.e. Star Wars characters, Harry Potter characters, etc.)
5. Be humorous, but always stay professional. If it can’t be said at the dinner table with your kids, don’t use it.
6. Communication must be a two-way street. Make sure to answer questions and comments as they come up. It will do no good to just talk at your community.
At the end of the day, changing driving behavior is the goal, and you have the opportunity to do so on a very big stage. Social media is an amazing way to spark discussions and get more people talking about your traffic issues. So, strap on your helmet, adjust your mirrored sunglasses, and slip on the motor boots. Then, go digital, get on your social media channels, and start communicating.