#myNYPD – Is All PR Good PR?

By | April 24, 2014

This past Tuesday the NYPD launched a Twitter campaign that quickly spiraled out of control, far exceeding the reaction I am sure the NYPD anticipated.  The goal for the campaign was to build the NYPD’s social presence, broaden engagement, and show greater transparency by encouraging Twitter users to post photos of interactions with members of the NYPD along with the hashtag #myNYPD. It seemed like a good idea, however, as can be the case, be careful what you ask for.  Here is the original Tweet by the NYPD.


Tens of thousands of Twitter users posted some pretty graphic images of NYPD officers, some from the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, engaged in bloody battles with civilians. Some images showed officers in full swing with batons and other depictions of police violence.  If you haven’t seen some, here are a few:


When the #myNYPD hashtag started trending worldwide later Tuesday night, we thought to ourselves, hasn’t anyone learned from similar recent events where a Twitter campaign, or any social media campaign for that matter, while hopefully well intentioned, went awry? Case in point – last November JPMorgan launched its #AskJPM campaign.  Soon after that launched and the attacks ensued, JP Morgan quickly pulled the plug.

However, the #myNYPD initiative isn’t going anywhere soon, very fast.  In fact, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday he was not phased by the backlash.

“I kind of welcome the attention,” Bratton said. “We really broke the numbers yesterday. Most of the pictures I looked at, they’re old news,” said Bratton. “They’ve been out there for a long time. Often times police activities are lawful, but look awful.”

I don’t think this was the response people were expecting, but from a PR perspective, the NYPD’s hashtag campaign generated more negative responses than it did positive. There are a few lessons to be learned here:

  • Worst Case Scenario Planning:  Hopefully in this case, smart social minds were meeting to determine what the potential pitfalls were upfront.  If so, unlike JCPenney’s Super Bowl Twitter episode where it took a while to draw out what was going on, the reaction from NYPD should have been quick.
  • Negative Impressions Matter: There are more than a few wise communications professionals that do not believe all publicity is good publicity.  If the end goal was to not just engage the broader New York community, but to have the number of negative photos outweigh the positive ones, then potentially this could be viewed as a success.
  • Measure, Monitor, Fail, Restart:  The key in this situation isn’t to “repeat” but to restart the initiative and rethink in a way to highlight the good NYPD does on a daily basis.
  • Learn from History: It’s okay to fail.  In fact, many in social would argue there are more failures than successes.  However, those that do not learn from history are destined to repeat similar failures. Perhaps the one lesson learned here could be similar to the JPMorgan example.  They ended the campaign and many felt it was the best decision they made.

Where would you rate the NYPD’s example in terms of #Failure?

Tim Brennan (7 Posts)

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