Three Years of Social Media-Lessons Learned

web words signs post over blue sky
web signs post from Crestock Stock Photos

Article offered by the Community Policing Dispatch, COPS Office, US Department of Justice, January 2010.

Social media sites are popping up everywhere as more and more agencies are starting to incorporate them into their media outreach efforts. We created our federal social media site 3 years ago, and believe that the site has provided concrete benefits to our agency. At this writing, we are averaging 200,000 requests a month. Here are some of the “lessons learned” that have been derived from our collective experience:

What is Social Media?

There is no formula or specific definition for a successful social media strategy; it depends entirely on your circumstances and what you want to accomplish. The heart of the philosophy of social media is the willingness to interact with your customers to establish a dialog. It’s an even exchange; you give them neat and interesting content and they give you information to improve what you do.

Management Directives

Your managers state that they want to enter the social media world and have directed you to do it. But do what, and who will do everything necessary? Are they interested in a blog? Do they want video and audio? Are they interested in photos? Do they want a presence on Facebook and other social media sites? Who will respond to questions?

The bottom-line is that management needs to figure out what it wants and what it’s prepared to spend. They also need to know that it’s impossible for one person to do everything necessary for a successful site.

Who Creates Web sites?

Web sites are created by a variety of people with a mix of skills. Here are the skill sets necessary to create a web site:

  • Web site creation (designers and coders)
  • Web site population (posting relevant materials)
  • Web site marketing
  • Writing for web sites.

The problem is that there are few individuals who possess all those skills. Reliance on less than well rounded talent becomes painfully evident the more we visit emerging web sites. But the sad truth is that few web specialists have all the skills necessary to build a successful site. The lesson is that dependence on one person to create and manage a web site may not work.

What Do You Want Your Web site to do?

If you want a static web site that will never or rarely change and if you’re not interested in using the site to market your agency or engage people, you have just hit the jackpot. These sites require little maintenance. However, if you want the site to promote the agency and its agenda and if you want to interact with your customers/citizens (the heart of social media) then you have entered an entirely different world.

Marketing through social media means an endless effort to create new content that serves your customer/citizen base. The idea is a continual interaction with the people you want to reach, thus a constant flow of new products. The production of video, audio, blogs or other items requires dedication and resources.

Social media means having people to create products. Writing for the web or media production for the web must be appropriate. You’re not writing for academic journals. Web creation must be friendly, engaging in content and style and approachable. You have to make it easy for people to get the information they need.

Marketing Your Site

This is the essence of many unsuccessful sites, no one knows you exist. Suggestions:

  • Create a great site that users will find interesting and engaging.
  • Establish your key words, the words that will attract people. What are the key words or phrases that will attract people to your site?
  • The address (URL) title and description should contain your key words. This may be “the” most important factor leading to success in marketing your site.
  • Your key words need to be integrated into your postings.
  • Create e-mail marketing lists.
  • Create Twitter marketing lists.
  • Ask for links or create content that other people will feel compelled to link to. Links are like votes of confidence in the value of your site. The more links you have, the better your ranking is for key search terms. The better your ranking, the more people will find your site.
  • Leave helpful comments in relevant blog posts with your web address (thus creating a link to your site).
  • Create pages in the top 25 social media sites (i.e., Facebook, YouTube, etc.) and post to them often.
  • Ask other sites to include your site in its offerings. Ask major blog directories to include your blog.

We believe that web development and marketing must be seen in the context of the long run. It’s impossible to do all this in a series of days or weeks or months. We do marketing every day and take it in small bites. We do it as time allows, but it gets done.

Answering Questions

You will find that it’s not nearly as bad as some make it out to be. I discovered this when marketing a national media campaign. We were the best known public service campaign in America; but few contacted us for an elaborate discussion, most wanted a quick answer to a question or a had suggestion to offer.

If you have prepared materials your burden will be relatively small. But the heart and soul of social media is personal interaction when asked. I do not hesitate to pick up the phone and call the person. We need to know what others think of us and our services.

New and Shiny Things

One of the biggest mistakes people new to social media make is chasing every new and shiny thing that comes down the pike. There are some people (including us) who cannot leave good enough alone. If you developed your blog or web site with WordPress, then you have an endless array of themes, widgets and plug-ins to choose from. I wasted many, many hours looking at new applications that in the long run meant little to nothing to the quality of my site. Stick to basics. You have enough to worry about. Create a site that serves your users and move on.

Resources

Find the best resources. Go to the big retail outlets on the web that specialize in books. Search for books that describe themselves as basic or for newcomers or for “dummies.” They will take the time to offer explanations for people without social media backgrounds. Search for “social media” or “˜podcasting” or “blogs” or “marketing.” Do not get anything that assumes prior knowledge.

There is another source for related terms such as social media, Twitter, podcasting, etc. called the Common Craft store on YouTube. It provides simple explanations for these and many additional terms. Please do not be put off by their simplicity. Sometimes, simplicity is just what you need to learn or to explain terms to others.

Bandwidth

Your IT people may object to the use of internal servers due to security issues of lack of capacity. Using outside web site hosting companies, which can start at approximately $10.00 a month, can put an end to objections.

Change

Search engines do not like change, and you may pay a temporary price in search visibility. But you may find that your original plan doesn’t work or you see a need to take the site in a different direction. It’s a normal part of the process. Make your changes to the site and marketing efforts as soon as practical and move on.

Conclusions

There are endless additional considerations when creating social media sites and there are existing materials that address them. But most issues seem to fall into the categories discussed:

  • Management needs to know what they want to do and provide resources. There is no single definition of a successful social media strategy.
  • Establishing your key words at the beginning and integrating them into every aspect of your site is crucial.
  • You can’t expect one person to create, populate, write for and market your web site. The necessary skills are often beyond the capacity of one person alone. You may be great at writing code but marketing and web writing and document creation is foreign to you, yet all are necessary skills.
  • You and your managers need to understand the purpose of a social media site. Static sites have their place (but it’s diminishing). Interactive sites require resources or they will not work.
  • Market your site in bits you can deal with. We market every day. We do not try to take on the entire marketing effort at one time.
  • Unless you are J.C. Penney, you will not spend every waking moment of your professional life answering questions. But spend time with inquiries that cannot be answered simply. They often provide more in insight than you provide in terms of information.
  • Don’t chase every new “shiny thing” that comes along. Most are time wasters.
  • Get the right (basic – very basic) reference materials.
  • Bandwidth is no longer an issue if you hire outside companies to supply it.
  • Change is normal. Make your changes as soon as possible in the development process.

-Timothy Barnes
-Len Sipes

The authors are public affairs and IT specialists at an independent Federal agency

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Using Social Networking to Reach the Public

From’ “Community Policing Dispatch,” ‘ August, 2009, US Department of Justice

In world history there have been few fundamental shifts in how people move through society, but right now such a shift is occurring. For centuries, people were introduced and became connected face-to-face. Today social media outlets provide unparalleled levels of information sharing and social networking. Nielson Media reported that “the number of social media users has increased 87 percent since 2003, and surpassed e-mail use for the first time in February” and “in the past year, the time spent on social networks increased 73 percent” according to a May 2009 article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Though research indicates that a well-crafted social web site (catering to learning styles – friendly with story-based articles fact sheets and interesting video and audio) can have a huge impact, the nature of that impact can have either a tremendously useful or dangerously detrimental effect.

If an event occurs, word travels the Internet instantaneously. With new technologies and cheap bandwidth, anyone with a basic understanding of website creation and search engine optimization can produce a site in mere hours. Cameras and software can shoot and lift video to You Tube in minutes. The danger is that an organization devoted to misinformation might control public opinion faster and better than a public agency.

San Antonio police encountered this problem when an impostor set up a fake San Antonio Police Department account. Though mostly harmless, the twitterers (as Twitter account holders are known) used the official seal of the police department on their page and posted law enforcement themed-tweets (Twitter posts). Although the department successfully had the account removed from Twitter, their experience illustrates the potential dangers in the new era of information sharing. If the department had already made their own official Twitter, the fake account would never have deceived the citizens of San Antonio. Thus, having social networking account can prevent risks to public safety.

Additionally, social networking sites allow government agencies to reach out to their public like never before. Story-based articles, fact sheets, audio and video provide users with a personal, comfortable and meaningful experience. In the words of a writer for Advertising Age Magazine, “Brands need to have a personality and be someone that people want to be friends with.” Law enforcement agencies are all brands, and in many cases their images could be improved. Police departments are increasingly creating Facebook and Twitter accounts to reach their public in new ways. The personal profile elements of Facebook give a human quality to departments by listing personal interests and favorite quotes and allowing members of the public to be-“friend” them. Meanwhile the limited text and mass broadcast of Twitter posts allow agencies to keep their citizenry informed up-to-the-minute. As Lakeland, Florida’s Assistant Police Chief Bill LePere told CNN. “Expecting the local print media to pick [a tradiotional media release] up and run it in the newspaper tomorrow is 24 hours too late.”

CNN.com reports that “public safety officials are finding the use of sites to be not only speedy but a convenient way to distribute press releases, amber alerts, road closings, and suspect descriptions.” Twitter accounts provide users with major updates in 140 characters or less and links to more detailed information can be posted as well. Better yet, sites offer a free avenue for disseminating information in a tough economic climate. Thanks to advertising, neither the twitterer or the follower need to pay for the communication thereby eliminating cost barriers that might otherwise prevent valuable information spreading.

The experiences of police departments from Boston, Massachusetts to Chatanooga, Tennessee (both of which have Twitter accounts) illustrate that social media can be of great value to law enforcement agencies. Social media sites are a perfect outlet for community policing as they allow for both outreach and prevention. Websites provide social tools that let agencies communicate with and engage their public. By forming even casual electronic relationships with residents, departments are able to improve their status and stature within the community. Furthermore sites like Twitter and Facebook provide a private forum for members of the community to communicate valuable information about a suspect or simply their public safety concerns to the police. Information sharing with the public has always been a priority of law enforcement. Yet never before has opportunity for a direct dialogue with the public existed on such a vast scale. Social media enables agencies to accomplish preexisting operational goals by facilitating the transfer of specific and targeted information in efficient and innovative ways.

Leonard Sipes
Special Contributor
and

Meghan Burns
Special Contributor
The COPS Office

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Using Social Media to Protect Public Safety

Please see http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television programs
Please see www.csosa.gov for the web site for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

DC’s Fugitive Safe Surrender Prompts 530 Offenders with Warrants to Voluntarily Surrender in a Church

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Edited by Cedric Hendricks


It’s not easy to understand why anyone with a warrant would voluntarily surrender to law enforcement. But I spoke to many offenders during an event in the nation’s capitol who told me that they were looking for a safe opportunity to turn themselves in. They wanted another chance to return into normal society.


But they and family members needed to learn about the program and be convinced that it wasn’t a scam. We had to earn their trust. We did that through social and conventional media efforts. This may have been one of the first efforts on the part of a federal agency to use social media during a campaign.


The thrust of this article is not Fugitive Safe Surrender in Washington, D.C. (www.dcsafesurrender.org) but an overview of the possibilities that social media affords the criminal justice community. By social media, I’m referring to radio and television on the Internet (podcasting), articles on the Internet (bloging) combined with more traditional efforts such as web site creation, a telephone answering system, e-mail and radio and television ads.


Fugitive Safe Surrender in DC

Before we delve into social media we need a quick overview of Fugitive Safe Surrender in Washington:

The effort encouraged those wanted for non-violent felony or misdemeanor crimes in the District of Columbia to surrender voluntarily to faith-based leaders and law enforcement in a church. Fugitive Safe Surrender recognizes that many offenders are looking for a way out. The program provides an opportunity for individuals wanted for non-violent offenses to resolve their warrants and get on with their lives. Surrendering within the confines of a church (or other religious entity) provides the assurance that they will be treated safely and fairly.


Fugitive Safe Surrender (FSS) was successfully implemented by the US Marshals Service in six cities where over 6,000 people surrendered. Those participating generally go home that day with a new court date or have their charges adjudicated on the spot. Violent offenders (yes, they surrendered as well) are held for trial.


The entire criminal justice community in D.C. came together to create the structure for FSS. I was asked to lead the public information effort.


530 offenders with violent and non-violent warrants surrendered in a church in northeast Washington D.C. over the course of three days during November of 2007. There was extensive media coverage.


Social Media

Explaining why an offender would voluntarily surrender is easier than explaining social media. Social media is more a philosophy rather than a list of strategies.


One of the lead agencies for FSS was my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington, D.C (a federal, executive branch entity). We do a series of radio and television programs under the banner of “DC Public Safety” at http://media.csosa.gov. The program includes a blog (articles) and transcripts. Some consider it the most popular criminal justice radio and television Internet site in the nation.


But the use of radio or television or blogs or transcripts or any other form of social media is not the point; they exist to create a comfortable experience for the user. People learn in a wide variety of formats. Some want to read while others want to listen or watch. For those who want to read, it’s preferable that the document be “story based” with an emphasis on enjoyment and readability. Audio and video programs need to follow the same philosophy.


Why?

The criminal justice system, like all bureaucracies, is usually conservative when it comes to news ways of communicating. As someone who has spent close to 30 years in communications for national and state criminal justice agencies, I understand the complexities and resource limitations.


Social media opportunities available for criminal justice agencies are enormous and very cost effective. Radio shows for the Internet (podcasting) can be done for cost of a computer and an additional $500.00 for equipment and broadband access. Once purchased, you have almost unlimited opportunities to communicate with a local and national audience without additional cost.


The primary objective of social media is a personal, non-bureaucratic style of communicating that respects various learning styles and encourages the development of conversations with the public and media.


The bottom line is that social media, in combination with traditional media, creates a powerful and effective method of communicating. You can accomplish organizational operational goals effectively with social media.


Social Media and FSS

When we brainstormed media outreach efforts for Fugitive Safe Surrender, we realized that money was very tight and that Washington, D.C. is an expensive market to communicate in. Campaigns like ours usually depend on unassigned airtime donated by radio and television stations. In a market like D.C., available free air-time is almost nonexistent (especially for TV).


Planed bus ads and timely television ads were cut due to budget. Money for a telephone answering system and web site dried up. This left us with radio ads developed through the Broadcaster’s Association, a telephone answering system cobbled together from our telephone system and a web site created by Mary Anderson (webmaster) from my agency (www.dcsafesurrender.org). It became clear that our use of social media would go from an accessory to a primary strategy.


The first thing we did was to go to a city that had already conducted a successful FSS (Indianapolis) and do interviews with offenders who surrendered. We were able to get compelling testimony from them and family members as well as judges who heard the cases. That testimony was mounted on our web site.


The radio and television ads that we had produced were mounted on the website. This established a one-stop shopping opportunity for offenders, their families and the media.


The concept of social media embraces the personalization of communications. To insure that we knew what to communicate and how to communicate, we conducted three focus groups of offenders under our supervision. It was the focus groups where we discovered that friends and family members would do the bulk of the research on FSS and the majority had Internet access. We now knew who we were talking to and how to reach them. But to be on the safe side, we implemented a telephone answering system with recorded messages.


We created radio ads in Spanish to accommodate that part of our population.

We created a radio show that fully explained the program.


We mounted easy to understand print materials on the web site.


All radio and television ads referred people back to the web site and telephone answering system.


We posted the radio and television ads on the same server used by our “DC Public Safety” programs.


But possibly the most powerful strategy was to interview the first person in line to surrender every day. The interviews were mounted on the web site by Enterprise Architect Timothy Barnes and publicized to media via e-mail and press release within an hour of their creation.


These individuals told compelling stories that resonated with the mainstream media and they presented those stories to the public at a crucial time of the campaign. One offender walked several miles to the site beginning at 3:00 a.m. at the request of his mother (it was her birthday). He described the surrendering process as a pilgrimage for change to a new life. He and several additional offenders agreed to be interviewed by mainstream media which furthered coverage.


Throughout the process, we looked for additional compelling stories to tell. We understood that story-based accounts communicated better than a public safety angle.


Results

The social and traditional media approach employed (with very little money) worked beyond our expiations with 530 surrendering during the three day process. Friends and family members told us how they heard the radio ad and went to the web site and how the audio and video ads and testimonies of prior participants convinced them that the effort was legitimate. They became so comfortable with the process that surrendering mothers brought in their children. Some offenders were accompanied by multiple family members and friends. A son recently released from prison brought in his father for a theft warrant.


It’s important to understand that the social media approach worked with reporters, DJ’s, talk show hosts and their management. Several told us that they thought that the program was a bit silly until they went to the web site and listened to the audio and watched the video. The web site convinced them that this was a program worth investing in and, through the stories we provided, they helped us to publicize the program.


Podcasting and other forms of social media are powerful strategies that everyone can use. Whether it’s a quick form of emergency notification, getting the word out about a dangerous criminal or talking about new strategies, citizens and their leaders like the informal and informational aspects of audio, video and story based written material.


It’s time for all of us within the criminal justice system to use social media tactics within our own communities.

Articles on social media, podcasting and community outreach for criminal justice agencies are available through our blog at http://media.csosa.gov. I look forward to your suggestions.

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What To Do When You Have A Celebrity? Strategies for Dealing With the Entertainment Media

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

As all of you know, Paris Hilton is spending some quality time at the Los Angeles County Jail for a probation violation. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer ordered Ms. Hilton reincarcerated after jail officials allowed her to spend her time on house arrest after three days in the facility.

How would you handle the throng of media descending on you and your institution if you found yourself in similar circumstances?

In my 18 years of handling media for institutional and community corrections as the Director of Public Information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the (federal) Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, I responded to a wide variety of media requests regarding well-known offenders. Mike Tyson (on Maryland’s parole and probation caseload) produced endless calls. The “Beltway Shooters” who terrorized the Washington D.C. metro area several years ago were incarcerated in Maryland’s Super Max prison. They and many others produced a fail share of national and international media attention.

The bottom line in media relations is insuring that celebrity offenders are treated no different than any other offender. “Friends” in the media will call for the inside scoop. Relatives will ask for information. Staff will be asked to act as informants. To say that it’s challenging is an understatement.

You will hear the media report circumstances that only people directly connected to the case would know. While it’s disconcerting, it happens all the time.

Staff may talk. Most will not talk to the media, but you should anticipate that some will. Some relay experiences to friends and families who may call the media. This could produce unfounded rumors. Rumors, as we all know, have a way of snowballing wildly. What we call a standard adjustment to incarceration could be major psychotic meltdown to others.

Note that it’s not unusual for the superintendent, commissioner or warden to feed information to their favorite reporters. Yes, it happens.

Your executives (or you) have to brief the governor’s office or city or county executive or their spokespersons. They may pass this information on to media.

First of all, stick to the script. All of us have public information policies or privacy laws to contend with. Stray from what’s permissible, and you will find yourself on the receiving end of negative news. Generally speaking, we can provide name, charge, start and end date, date of birth and confirmation that the offender is in your institution. Medical, psychological, criminal history and adjustment issues (how well they are doing) are off limits.

Obviously, staff operational issues are extremely important. Having the right administrator take charge of the case and making sure staff are aware of what’s coming and what’s expected is extremely important. Let them know that the media may try contact them and what to do.

Some spokespeople decide not respond to celebrity related media requests until release. That’s wise policy. My suggestion is to create an extensive fact sheet on the institution and routine day-to-day activities for all offenders and place it on your web site. That should answer many standard questions.

Note that there is a huge difference between the mainline and entertainment media. The entertainment media knows no bounds. They will probably try to speak to every member of the institution’s staff (and their families) by phone or at home. They will try to visit any offender in the institution just to get a scrap of information or rumor. They will offer all thousands of dollars for a photograph.

Regardless of to the posture you take regarding day-to-day inquiries, you will have to deal with rumors. You need to have updated information sent to you daily. You need to visit the institution so you know the lay of the land. You have to be in a position to respond immediately to inevitable false accusations. While you may refuse to answer day-to-day questions about the celebrity, you do not want triple the number of media at your doorstep spurred by the false belief that you are hiding something.

You need to have the cell or private telephone numbers of the institution’s executive staff and shift commanders to make necessary connections fast. Be sure to brief your executives as to breaking situations before talking to media.

Finally, you may want to be available for off-the-record conversations with a small number of mainstream (not entertainment) media or media management. Why?

Because they want to clarify rumors, your briefings may be your best bet to keep all media under control. You cannot give up privacy act or public information act information, but you can provide access to clarify the exaggerated remarks of informants. Trusted media who know the truth (i.e., no suicide attempts, no hunger strikes, no mental breakdowns, etc.) can be your best friend.

You may want to provide some reporters with quick access by providing your cell phone number. Getting a unique cell phone and number for the occasion would be helpful.

These are the people you will have to deal with after a celebrity driven event. They think you are helping them establish the truth, and you are. But what you and your institution or system get in return is accuracy and some control over the story.

Experienced public affairs personnel, not part-time PIO’s or institutional employees, may want to consider this tactic. There is an art to doing this without violating privacy considerations that veteran public affairs staff routinely employ as needed.

I look forward to your suggestions or comments. Please contact me at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov.

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Media Relations and Community Corrections

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) is the parole and probation entity for Washington, D.C. It is a federal, executive branch agency. CSOSA prides itself on state-of-the-art practices, with some of the lowest caseloads and best contact standards, drug treatment options and programmatic initiatives in the country. Our information systems are first rate.

CSOSA decided in 2004 to embark on aggressive and comprehensive public relations outreach efforts to support strategic initiatives. Community corrections (and corrections in general) face immense public relations challenges. According to national surveys of confidence in the criminal justice system, corrections pales in comparison to law enforcement and the judiciary (see Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics).

The emphasis on offender reentry from prison is one example as to how the public looks at our activities. Although most of the rhetoric on reentry comes from national sources, the great majority of decisions regarding supervision and services for returning offenders will be made at the state and local levels.

The public will support this and other community corrections initiatives based solely on their ability to trust the local system assigned with implementation. The average citizen and reporter have never been exposed to national reentry advocates and their positions. All fellow citizens know about corrections is what they read in the paper and view on local TV.

But when the media carries endless stories of offenders committing violent crimes as the sole message, our ability to enter or affect the discussion is greatly diminished.

This article is not about reentry; rather, it addresses the more general question of whether corrections agencies can have a favorable impact on public attitudes and perceptions.

I spent 14 years as the Director of Public Relations for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Independent university research documented a gain of 30 percentage points (from 20 to 50 percent) in the public’s favorable opinion of the agency during my time there, which is remarkable considering the inevitable negative publicity associated with corrections. To be fair, my former agency also encompassed law enforcement agencies, but the vast majority of publicity, good and bad, was associated with corrections.

Correctional agencies can be part of the debate and greatly influence local and state media. It’s not my intent to provide an overview of basic public relations in this article, but to provide a synopsis of what the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency sees as critical ingredients in media and public relations.

A Service Orientation

The news media is very important to us. Unless you have an advertising budget, everything will be filtered and distributed through them. Establishing favorable media relations can only be accomplished by taking their needs into serious consideration. We believe that you have to be honest and fair in order to get the same in return.

We are available around the clock through agency cell phones and Blackberry’s. We have access to the CSOSA information system through home computers. We have laptops with wireless broadband capacity. We have the authorization, tools and knowledge to take care of media needs.

Proactive Marketing

We market to the media as often as we market to the public. In a hyper-competitive media market like the nation’s capitol, we know that our proactive efforts will not get all the exposure we want. But when a reporter writes about a parolee involved in a violent crime, we are hopeful that the reporter or editor also knows of the quality and comprehensiveness of our efforts to closely supervise and obtain services for our clients. At the very least, they will know what we are trying to accomplish.

We are also concerned about our national reputation. We want recognition for developing and implementing best practices. We have sometimes found it easier to market to CBS News and National Public Radio than to local media. But while national exposure is valued, our local media connections are the ones that will play the greatest role in defining our effectiveness.

We believe in proactive efforts as the foundation of good public relations. Beyond pitching story ideas to reporters, we are systematic in our outreach efforts. These include:

  • 1. A quarterly television show that is played approximately 600 times each year by D.C and metropolitan government and community access stations. Considering the majority of reporters (and other important partners) do not live in Washington (it’s an expensive town) regional exposure allows us to reach them in communities where they live.
  • 2. A first-rate web site (http://www.csosa.gov/) due to be unveiled this fall. We believe that upon completion, it will rank among the best criminal justice web and audio/video sites in the nation. A fully functioning site can become the equivalent of a full time public relations staff position.
  • 3. Writing story-oriented articles for national criminal justice publications and using them to populate the web site. In three years, staff has created approximately 40 articles and fact sheets to explain our activities in a friendly, non-technical way.
  • 4. The creation and promotion of podcasts (radio shows) for placement on the web site. We will use podcasts to explain what we do, to promote special initiatives, and recruit new employees. Our series of radio and television productions are carried under the banner of “DC Public Safety.” “DC Public Safety” is now, per Google, the most popular criminal justice podcasting site in the nation. (http://media.csosa.gov/ or http://www.csosa.gov/).
  • 5. The creation and promotion of video podcasts, which is nothing more than using existing CSOSA TV shows and video products and promoting them as web-based internet products(http://media.csosa.gov/ or http://www.csosa.gov/).
  • 6. The creation of a comprehensive e-mail and fax list to carry our message to local and national media and to interested national professionals and citizens of the District. Our new web site will also contain an e-mail signup option.
  • 7. Our Community Justice Programs section employs 5 community representatives whose job is to attend community functions in the city where crime is on the agenda.
  • 8. Our Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental and Public Affairs is in constant contact with federal and D.C. government officials and staff and other institutions to explain and advocate our agendas. The public affairs team is part of this office.

The above is simply a sample of what we are trying to accomplish through our public relations efforts. The bottom line is that we believe that we are major players in the effort to protect the safety of the citizens we serve. We are dedicated professionals who are operating in everyone’s best interest, thus we have little to hide and much to contribute.

When the inevitable criminal act is committed by one of the 15,000 offenders we supervise daily, we hope that most members of the media will place the crime into proper perspective. We believe that this is done through an honest acknowledgement of our efforts to closely supervise offenders and help them to transform their lives.

Successful community correctional programs depend upon a working partnership with the media. Bad media relations will impede progress and undermine your ability to reach the public. In governmental public relations, the public’s trust and respect are everything. Without it, nothing good will happen. To get it, you need the media.

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