'We've also addressed puppies': NZ police chided over social media posts

Guardian Web |

A multi-thousand dollar review of New Zealand police’s social media has recommended it post fewer pictures of puppies, and congratulated the Australian federal police for its “humour and humility” online.

Commissioned by New Zealand police at the cost of NZ$10,000 (A$9,500), the audit examined the recent boom of animal pictures, feel-good moments and memes used by police social media accounts.

In slides obtained by the Otago Daily Times under the New Zealand equivalent of freedom of information legislation, the firm concluded the police were doing well, but should post more examples of officers doing work, and fewer “puppy pics”.

It also commended the AFP for its “humour” and “humility” on social media – published before the AFP conducted two raids on journalists last week.

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget... #fridayfloofpic.twitter.com/R1605II58UNew Zealand Police (@nzpolice)

The overwhelmingly positive review, from firm Socialites, called NZ police a “leading social media organisation”.

“The NZ Police do a consistent job of ensuring the tone is appropriate to the content,” the report said. “For example, the tone is lighter if talking about cats being rescued and appropriately serious when it involves a crime.”

But the meme saturation of New Zealand and Australian police media has previously attracted criticism.

In 2017, NZ police had to delete a tweet that joked about road deaths with a meme of Steve Carell from the US sitcom The Office on a weekend when nine people died.

“When you have to tell someone their family member has died in a crash,” the caption read, above a gif of Carrell saying “This is the worst”.

OK, it's only Monday, but this tweet by NZ Police already takes the booby prize for social media fail of the week. Tone-deaf. pic.twitter.com/w4xG3NAyPLNik Dirga (@nikdirga)

It also apologised for praising a police officer who “took charge” of “an internment camp for Japanese women and children” on International Women’s Day this year.

Once more for the people in the back:

"My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit" pic.twitter.com/74uyujKbzf — Sana (@bigshika)

But the 19-slide report did not mention these gaffes, and commended the police Twitter account for “excellent use of social media self-referential content such as #flatlay – great for viral pick up.”

#flatlay pic.twitter.com/60byoMxbdKNew Zealand Police (@nzpolice)

However, it did say that police media should reduce the proportion of puppies in its posts.

“As we know this is a regular discussion point at police, we’ve also addressed puppies,” it said.

“Puppy pics and humorous/humanising content should definitely stay as part of the content…[but] a greater proportion of operational stories will help further build trust & confidence.”

In a series of comparisons, it said NZ police had a better social media presence than Fire & Emergency New Zealand, the New Zealand Defence Force and Corrections NZ.

It said the Australian federal police were “the closest example” of another government agency that used “humour and humility” as well as NZ police.

"No, I'm Fred. He's George!" ?? #ausfedpolicepic.twitter.com/ju4DooMaz1 — AFP (@AusFedPolice)

Paul Halford, NZ police’s national manager of communications, said social media played an important role in public trust and “helping people be safe”.

“Most New Zealanders do not have face-to-face interactions with police officers … a lot of the information they get about what New Zealand police are doing is online,” he said.

“The purpose of the audit was to evaluate how NZ Police are performing in the social media space, and how it aligns with supporting our business objectives, especially building trust and confidence in the police.

Marketing expert Dee Madigan, the creative director of firm CampaignEdge, said police social media accounts were generally good in their use of humour.

“It’s important that police are liked. That feelgood factor is an important part of their job – that they are liked and trusted – and building social media is an important part of that.

“The reality is that people are not going to follow boring accounts. People are on social media partly to be informed, partly to be entertained. It’s almost the price you pay for being there.”

But she warned them to be careful of hypocrisy – especially in the light of the AFP’s recent raids.

“I think the AFP online account is good, but you have to be careful. If their offline behaviour is very, very different to their online behaviour – you have branding inconsistency, and that makes people angry. People will be saying ‘If you’re raiding journalists, then don’t pretend to be cute and funny.’

“If they do anything funny now they will probably get smashed for it. It seems like they haven’t, and that would be wise.”

This leaves such a bad taste in my mouth. Two children were apprehended by NT Police - one of them 14. Police have chosen to promote their police dog on social media & the Herald Sun have a puff piece that shows the police dog "practicing his bite" #auslaw@ABCmediawatchpic.twitter.com/x8SsUITN2YSophie Trevitt (@SophieTrevitt)

The report also analysed 16,000 comments on the various police Facebook pages – and found that 17% of comments were positive in the Waitemata district page, but only 2% were positive in the Central district page.

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