Tuesday, April 23, 2013

You Can't Manipulate The Public's Emotions & 4 Other Lessons For Law Enforcement Public Affairs

Take a good look at your audience - any ordinary person. Here, the actor Michael Cera, via Wikimedia.
Having worked in a law enforcement environment I think it is fair to say that the culture features chain-of-command thinking, jockeying for power and general discomfort with managing emotion in a real way.

These factors have a direct impact on public affairs because in today's environment - where social media has a gargantuan influence - you will literally be shouted down from your post if you cannot engage the public.

The rule of the day is to treat the public with respect, as a peer group equivalent if not greater in influence and power, as an ally to be persuaded. To be humble. And most importantly to engage them equally emotionally and intellectually.

Therefore, 5 tips for law enforcement public affairs--

1. Tell people what is going on in a way that conveys expertise but also deep concern for them. If you don't know how to do that watch any movie with Morgan Freeman. In fact I would actually hire Morgan Freeman. I am not kidding here.

2. Never say anything confusing, vague, inaccurate or misleading. If you make a mistake say so. If you can't tell people what is going on, say so and shut up.

3. Don't manipulate the public's emotions, don't try to manipulate the public's emotions, don't appear to try to manipulate them. You can explain why your mission is difficult or challenging. But you cannot cross that line. Watch "The Hunger Games" - the first fifteen minutes.

4. Welcome citizen journalists. Nobody should ever feel scorned or afraid for engaging with public life or public narrative. Have them examine the data. Crowdsource, don't crowd them out.

5. The stagey looking press conferences look staged. There are about ten million better ways to get the public engaged with what's going on, including embedding reporters and/or citizens with the subject matter experts to the greatest extent possible.

*As always all opinions are my own.