By Garrett Smith

The past year was, to say the least, a rough one for police departments across America. So when the New York Police Department started the #MyNYPD campaign in hopes of painting a better image of police officers, they did so with the best intentions. The campaign started off just fine, but at some point along the way it took a very abrupt and unfortunate turn down the wrong path.

The idea behind the campaign was simple enough; all you had to do was post a picture of you and your friendly neighborhood NYPD officer. They attempted to solicit participation with the prospect of being featured on the NYPD’s Facebook page.

What was intended to be a campaign showcasing all the good the NYPD does for its community, quickly turned into a firestorm of backlash and unexpected content. As if possessed by some force of biblical proportion, pictures, videos and tweets of the New York Police Department using “excessive force” came rushing onto social media. I use quotation marks when addressing the “excessive force” in these photos and videos, as the context of the situation is often left out, nonetheless this campaign soon spelled disaster for the boys in blue.

That’s when things took an even sharper, more devastating turn. At first it was the NYPD who were catching all the bad PR from disgruntled New Yorkers, but soon other cities began taking part. Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland are just a few of the cities whose police departments got some free advertising from their displeased residents.

With all of this information in mind it is worth noting that according to Dina Alobeid of Brandwatch, only 15 percent of all tweets under the MyNYPD hashtag contained negative content. While 15 sounds like a rather small percentage of the total population who used the #MyNYPD tag, it was more than enough to bring the award of #SocialFail to the campaign. So why do I and so many others consider the NYPD’s campaign to be a social fail even though a small fraction of the population used the hashtag in a negative connotation? It’s because the negative content got all the attention. Rather than news outlets featuring the photos of police officers taking part in food drives or helping an old woman back onto her feet, which do exist, they covered the photos of citizens being slammed onto the hoods of police cars or being pepper sprayed and billy clubbed.Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 5.35.38 PM

Personally I see that the NYPD was trying to generate some positive conversation about police amidst a plethora of bad, I just think a mix of timing and execution ultimately spelled disaster for their reputation. Rather than encourage the community to post content of their personal interactions with police at a time when departments are under an obscene amount of scrutiny and criticism, why not design a campaign that focuses on all the good New York’s police have done over the years without the help of user generated content? By reducing the chance for unwanted content, the NYPD could have had a far better social reaction than the one they ended up with.

References

Burt, B. (2015, April 16). Valuable Lessons From 5 Shockingly Bad Social Media Fails. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2015/04/valuable-lessons-5-shockingly-bad-social-media-fails/

Fields, L. (2014, April 24). #MyNYPD Campaign Spawns Hashtags Across the Country. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/mynypd-twitter-campaign-spawns-hashtags-across-the-country/

Phillip, A. (2014, April 22). Well the #MyNYPD hashtag sure backfired quickly. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/04/22/well-the-mynypd-hashtag-sure-backfired-quickly/

Social Media Listening Reports – Brandwatch. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2016, from https://www.brandwatch.com/reports/

Vultaggio, M. (2014, April 23). Not My NYPD: What Happened With The Failed Twitter Campaign That Unsuspectingly Encouraged Police Brutality Photos. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.com/not-my-nypd-what-happened-failed-twitter-campaign-unsuspectingly-encouraged-police-1575577