NYPD Photo Hashtag Backfires

**** Warning: this post contains images depicting violence ****

Inviting the public to share their experiences of your organisation can be a very effective use of social media. But the difference between social media and PR is that you don’t control the conversation, as the New York Police Department discovered when they encouraged people to tag photos using #myNYPD.

They were hoping for brand-friendly feel-good images like this one:

What they got instead were images like these, showing police violence:

A number of tweets contained images of whistleblower Adrian Schoolcraft, whose actions in reporting apparently institutionalised corruption in NYPD resulted in his involuntary commitment to a psychiatric ward.

It’s a  message for anyone considering doing “PR” on social media. You can’t. (Edit: See comments for an explanation of what I mean by “PR”)

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5 Responses to NYPD Photo Hashtag Backfires

  1. James Larkin April 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    I suspect your last line should be tweaked a bit as it’s a rather broad statement 🙂

  2. Conn Ó Muíneacháin April 23, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    My point refers to traditional “Sunday Newspaper” PR, using traditional media, where you take photos of models with your product and spin things however you choose.

    Social Media is more effective than traditional PR because the audience is also the media. People trust a recommendation on social media because it comes from people like themselves. If you want people to recommend your friendly police force (or any other type of organisation), you need to actually make it friendly. People won’t just retweet your PR for you.

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