Organizations and businesses usually ask for public relations assistance in two circumstances – they want to be in the spotlight or they want to stay out of the spotlight. The reasons for wanting to stay out of the spotlight are obvious but understanding the importance of elevating a program or idea in the minds of the public can be more of a challenge. As a public safety agency that specifically serves the public, it makes sense for police departments to consider the value and importance of public relations campaigns. Here are the key reasons why public relations will help your organization:
Organizing Your Story
Every organization has a story to tell. But as with law enforcement, there are effective ways to tell a story, and there are ineffective ways to tell a story. The organizations that are effective at getting their message out are the ones that consider public relations as an essential pathway to achieving their aims and then set communications goals that complement their organizational needs. They are also the agencies that are organized and prepared to deal with members of the media, and who understand the nature of the media. Finally, they are also the institutions that understand their audience and how best to reach them.
Connecting With the Community
When it comes to a police department’s K9 program, it is critical for the departments to connect with their audience, which is their community. The community as a whole will not only want to understand how the police dog will help keep their neighborhood safer, they will be curious as to how the K9 program operates and what life is like for the police dog and his or her handler. For other members of the community, such as members of the board of selectmen or town managers, they will want to know if the town will incur any extra costs and how the program will function financially. School children will be interested in seeing the dogs and wondering if they can be treated like pets. And those committing criminal activity will be interested in knowing if they will encounter a police dog in the near future.
Since there will be natural public curiosity in the K9 program, it makes sense for police departments to develop a systematized public relations campaign in support of the program. The department should be able to tell its story on its own terms. Beyond that, a proactive public relations campaign allows the department the opportunity to deliver key messages about the program and the department. And most importantly, it gives the department the opportunity to build public support for the program.
Developing an Outreach Campaign
Whenever an organization is launching a new program, it makes sense for them to develop an outreach campaign that explains the reasoning behind the new initiative, the elements of it, and what the public should expect to see with the program. This is true for the K9 program. For many in your community, a police dog will be new. They will have seen K9 units in larger cities or on television, but not necessarily in their small town or neighborhood. Laying the groundwork by introducing the idea and the reasons for it makes sense to help residents understand why the police dog will be a benefit to their community.
The strategy is a simple one – develop opportunities that showcase the importance of your department’s police dog to the community’s safety. But a simple strategy often requires a lot of hard work.
Knowing Your Audience
Key to that strategy is knowing your audiences. In every town or neighborhood, there is more than one audience to cultivate. For a police department seeking support for a police dog program, the audiences often include a town or city manager, a Board of Selectmen or a Mayor, a finance board, business leaders, school administrators, and individuals who run local nonprofits, such as a senior center, among others. Designing opportunities to reach out to these audiences on a one-to-one basis is important, but also time consuming. That is where your community’s media is often useful.
Developing a relationship with the media allows you the opportunity to reach as many residents of your town or city as possible. This work will, for the most part, supplement the personal contact your department has with your audiences, but it will also be a key tool.
Beyond introducing the police dog and his handler, departments should utilize the media whenever they have a successful story to share. That could be related to the actions of the dog itself – he or she has a successful track or is instrumental in an arrest – but it could also be related to the benefits the police dog has brought to the department. A chance to showcase the police dog with local school children or to demonstrate how business leaders are supporting this new program demonstrates the important role the K9 program is playing in strengthening the police department and its public safety capabilities.
Utilizing Social Media Channels
Social media provides a targeted and affordable way to interact with various audiences, amplify messages and connect with members of the media and local community. It also helps to drive website traffic and push news stories to additional audiences and outlets. As such, it is a critical component of any public relations campaign.
Social and new media, including such well-known applications as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and e-newsletters, are increasingly important communications vehicles and public relations tools. It can give you the opportunity to disseminate your message to a large, targeted audience in a user-friendly way. It also allows you to create additional layers of positive online content that crowd out negative content and enhance your organization’s presence in the digital world through search engine optimization. And, most importantly, it allows you to interact with potential donors, and community leaders in a media environment that is increasingly competitive and personalized. This interaction is what truly drives online activity and is the most unique and valuable media content.
Police Departments can utilize social media platforms to directly connect with the community, and allow the public to foster a more personal relationship with the K9 unit. Many Police Departments have successfully used Twitter and Facebook to introduce their K9 units, as well as inform the public on community activities, police searches and the police dog’s daily routine. Through social media, police departments have the ability to shape public opinion and draw support for their K9 unit, which will prove advantageous when applying for funding.
Key Messages Regarding the K-9 Police Dog Program
K9 police units help to prevent crime, keep communities safe, and add tremendous value to police departments around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
K9 police officers are critical to police work in small towns, where the number of sworn officers is small and the areas to be covered are very large.
K9 police officers are also important in strengthening the relationship between police departments and the community they are protecting.
As the community has become acclimated to our newest officer and seeing their ability to prevent crime and make our community safe, we anticipate that we’ll be able to build support for the K9 unit from the community.
K9 police units are critical to preventing crime, especially in communities with concentrated retail districts.
As with other towns throughout the state, our community is fortunate to have a dedicated police officer who acts as the handler for our K9 police officer. Handlers are trained to work with their canine partners and provide for the care and feeding of their partners when they are off-duty.
We have acquired our K9 police dogs through certified training programs that breed these dogs for the purposes of police and public safety work.
Police departments around the Commonwealth are expanding their K9 police programs because they recognize the value they bring to their departments and the added safety they bring to their communities.
K9 police dogs and their police department handlers go through extensive training to ensure that K9 officers are prepared to handle the work conditions they face.
Because of their work ethic and commitment to public safety, both the handlers and K9 police dogs are prepared to be on-call whenever their services are needed.
In the long-term, K9 police units are a wise investment for community police departments – they bring invaluable and much-needed assets to departments and are hard-working even in challenging physical conditions.
K9 units around the state are often extremely busy because of a growing need for the skills that they provide. There will be times when our officer will be called out to help a neighboring town or city. But for the most part, our K9 officer will be working with his dog to solve cases here in our community.
K9 units are effective police tools and incidences of aggression against humans are very low. Both the K9 officers and their dogs have received extensive training to minimize aggression. The public should feel safe around these dogs and we encourage opportunities to interact with them.
It costs an estimated $15,000 in start-up costs to introduce a K9 police unit into a community with low annual costs to maintain them. The average work life of a K9 police unit is between 8 to 9 years.
Press Release Format Template and Sample
Press Release Format
CITY—(DATE)—INTRODUCTIONPARAGRAPH SHOULD INCLUDE WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE AND WHY. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
THIRD PARAGRAPH SHOULD INCLUDE DETAILS AND A SUGGESTED RESOURCE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Brief explanation of company with all the basic information ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Press Release Sample
POLICE DEPARTMENT LOGO
K-9 POLICE DOG X JOINS [TOWN OF X] POLICE DEPARTMENT
CITY – DATE - [The Town of X] police department welcomed their newest police cadet to the force, [X], who will be joined by his police officer handler, [Officer X]. [Office X] joins new K-9 units in police departments in fifteen police departments across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who have added a four-legged fulltime officer to their squads.
[QUOTE FROM POLICE CHIEF PRAISING K-9 UNIT]
The new K-9s joined police departments in Adams, Dalton, Dracut, Hadley, Lynnfield, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marlborough, Middleton, Millbury, Natick, Oxford, Palmer, Salisbury and Sturbridge. Each dog will be partnered with a human handler to form a K-9 unit. Police handlers are trained to work with their K-9 partners and provide for the care and feeding of their partners when they are off-duty.
The Stanton Foundation provided each department with $25,000 in grants to support the K-9 units, which is intended to cover initial acquisition and training costs of the dog plus ongoing costs for a total of three years. These grants have allowed communities with few resources the ability to bring a dynamic asset to their police departments.
As full time officers, the K-9 units are force multipliers to any size police department with their ability to track missing persons and suspects, search and clear buildings, assist other officers and locate narcotics. Search grids that would normally involve a dozen officers can be narrowed and completed quickly by a single dog- saving departments time, money and manpower. K-9s also protect officers through deterrence, as even the most determined criminals are uneasy about resisting apprehension by a well-trained patrol dog.
[PARAGRAPH WITH SPECIFIC INFORMATION ON OFFICER X AND HIS HANDLER – BREED OF DOG, WHAT KIND OF WORK THE DEPARTMENT ANTICIPATES HE’LL BE DOING, BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON HIS HANDLER].
[QUOTE FROM HANDLER]
The dogs, which are typically German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds or Belgian Malinois, participate in training programs ranging from 8-14 weeks where the dog and handler learn to work as a team in crucial areas of specialty police work. Both the handlers and K-9 police dogs are prepared to be on-call around the clock whenever their services are needed.
In addition to fighting crime, K-9 police officers are also important in strengthening the relationship between police departments and the community. K-9s encourage better relations with law enforcement through community outreach in all parts of society from schools to assisted living facilities.
It costs an estimated $15,000 to introduce a new K-9 unit into a community with comparatively minimal ongoing costs to a department. Unlike many other tools of law enforcement which depreciate in value over the years, K-9s provide higher returns on investment over time to any community that maximizes all that they have to offer.
[FINAL QUOTE FROM POLICE DEPARTMENT OR TOWN OFFICIAL SAYING THEY LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING OFFICER X IN THE COMMUNITY].
[POLICE DEPARTMENT BOILERPLATE LANGUAGE]
Calendar Listing Template and Sample
(POLICE DEPARTMENT LOGO HERE)
CALENDAR LISTING (Include a Brief Headline. E.g. Officer John Doe and Fido To Visit Parker Elementary School)
What: (Include an overview of the event with 1-2 paragraphs maximum)
Who: (Name of Police Officer and K-9)
(Any other pertinent participants such as Police Chief, School Principal, Selectmen, Town Manager, etc.)
When: (Date and time of the event)
For information please visit: Media Contact: (NAME)
(PHONE NUMBER AND/OR EMAIL)
Faneuil Hall Marketplace and CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV Present
“Faneuil Hall Tree Lighting Spectacular”
What: Faneuil Hall Marketplace and CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV are presenting the season’s first Holiday Tree Lighting on Saturday, November 23rd at 7:30 pm. The festivities will be televised during a live 30-minute program broadcast entitled “Faneuil Hall Tree Lighting Spectacular” on CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV and myTV38 (WSBK-TV).
The live televised program will be co-hosted by WBZ-TV News anchors Lisa Hughes and Jonathan Elias and include segments with WBZ-TV News’ Sports Director Steve Burton and Chief Meteorologist Eric Fisher. The program will feature holiday musical performances by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus conducted by Maestro Keith Lockhart as well as Grammy-award winning Singer/Songwriter Paula Cole. It will also feature a tribute to Mayor Menino who will help “flip the switch” to light the 80-foot holiday tree, the tallest in the Northeast, located at Marketplace Center adjacent to Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The event will also kick off the New England Patriots Annual Holiday Toy Drive for which Faneuil Hall Marketplace will be a drop off location for toy donations for needy children.
Festivities begin at 12 p.m. with live programming throughout the day leading up to the “Faneuil Hall Tree Lighting Spectacular” at 7:30 p.m.
Who: Paula Cole, Grammy- Award Winning Singer/Songwriter
Maestro Keith Lockhart, Maestro of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Eric Fisher, WBZ-TV News’ Chief Meteorologist
When: Saturday, November 23rd 12:00 p.m.
-Arrival of Santa Claus and selections from ‘A Christmas Story, The Musical”, additional live
performances hourly, MIX 104.1FM personalities Gregg Daniels and Fast Freddy Murphy and
Saturday November 23rd 7:30- 8:00 p.m.
- “Faneuil Hall Tree Lighting Spectacular” on WBZ-TV
Where: Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Marketplace Center
4 South Market Street
For information please visit: http://www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com/blink Faneuil Hall Media Contact: CBS Boston Media Contact:
Ann Murphy Ro Dooley Webster
Key Elements to Effective Public Relations Campaigns
KNOW YOUR GOALS. Public relations is an important tool to help you achieve key organizational goals, whether it’s to raise the profile of an individual or department or to increase awareness for an initiative or cause. Good public relations is never just about getting your name in the media – it’s about creating a strategy to achieve specific organizational objectives and goals. Outlining clear public relations goals at the beginning of any campaign will help to craft an effective and targeted strategy.
KNOW YOUR STORY. One of the most necessary components of any public relations campaign is understanding how to effectively communicate your story. Creating a culture of storytelling is imperative. Some vital elements of any compelling story are:
Messaging: Consistent and compelling language that communicates the critical ideas you want to convey to target audiences. Think about why your story is important, what you want audiences to know and why they should care.
Facts and Figures: Hard metrics provide context, reinforce key points in a story and illustrate specifically why the story is pertinent.
Human element: While facts and figures are important, compelling personal stories – both about the K-9 police dogs and their human partners - are the most memorable features of any story, and they propel others more strongly to act.
Visuals: Strong visuals can supplement the other three elements. As the media landscape continues to change with the rise of online and social media, compelling visuals are becoming increasingly necessary to illustrate a story.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Understanding whom you want to reach and how you want to reach them is critical. Potential audiences may include residents, community leaders, and the media. Knowing how to reach these different audiences will guide your strategy.
KNOW YOUR TOOLS. There are many ways to communicate your story to target audiences. Tools may include media relations – such as press releases, interviews, op-eds and features – along with newsletters, social media, and community events.
KNOW HOW TO WORK WITH THE MEDIA.
THE MEDIA AFFECT PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF YOUR ORGANIZATION. The media can be an ally and messenger to convey important information. Though we cannot ever control any external media fully, the media ultimately affects your reputation and the morale of your supporters inside and outside of your community.
PREPARE YOUR MESSAGE. You have a right to be prepared when speaking to the media. For any interview, understand who you are talking to, write down the goals you hope to achieve and try to anticipate the reporter’s questions. Research the outlet and the reporter – know their audiences and what types of stories they’ve covered. Practice and know what you want to say. Support your point with examples, statistics, personal observations, etc.
UNDERSTAND HOW TO WORK WITH REPORTERS. Reporters want information that is important and relevant to their target audiences. Be a good source – provide interesting ideas and be responsive. Understand that reporters work on tight deadlines.
REMEMBER THREE KEY POINTS. With any interview or presentation, it’s important to determine the three major points that you want to convey. Write down the three points you hope to communicate and make sure to practice them.
Media Dos and Don’ts
When Talking with the Media…..
Stay on message to convey the key points: the K-9 police unit is an effective way to increase your department’s capacity to protect the public; the K-9 police unit and his handler have gone through extensive training; he will be an asset to preventing crime in your community;
Think before you speak. Never answer questions off the top of your head – if you have the chance, take down the questions and call the reporter back when you have composed correct answers. When talking to a reporter everything is “on the record” unless you have made an agreement otherwise. If you don’t want something you say to be published in an interview, refrain from saying it;
Be friendly. The reporter is not the enemy; reporters are human beings who are generally interested in the story that they are covering. Conveying information to them in a friendly way is a good way to build a relationship.
Take pride in your job, and the work the police department is doing;
Make it personal – how will the K-9 police unit help your department and the community? What interesting thing has the K-9 police unit pursued?
Make it professional – how will this effort assist law enforcement as a whole?
Argue – make your points without disagreeing or seeming hostile;
Curse, or use any kind of vulgar language. Also, try to avoid using industry jargon too much;
Ramble on; answer the question directly and do NOT continuing talking to fill a silence;
Be Unprepared; if you don’t know an answer to a question, tell the reporter that you don’t know the answer. Don’t make anything up or give incorrect information. Know your talking points to convey the important messages.
Speculate; don’t speculate about the motivations or feelings about anyone who objects to the program. Just say you don’t know how they are feeling or why they are acting in a certain way.
Be negative – no one wants to hear complaining or that it took too long for this program to get started, for instance.
Don’t say no comment: If you don’t know an answer or realize it will sound negative, ask the reporter if you can get to him or her later.