NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

The largest police department in the U.S. learned the hard way that there are legions online devoted to short-circuiting even the best-intentioned public relations campaign — in this case, the NYPD’s Twitter invitation to people to post feel-good photos of themselves posing with New York’s Finest.

NEW YORK — The largest police department in the U.S. learned the hard way that there are legions online devoted to short-circuiting even the best-intentioned public relations campaign — in this case, the NYPD’s Twitter invitation to people to post feel-good photos of themselves posing with New York’s Finest.

What myNYPD got instead was a montage of hundreds of news images of baton-wielding cops arresting protesters, pulling suspects by the hair, unleashing pepper spray and taking down a bloodied 84-year-old man for jaywalking.

It was a mistake of epic proportions, with the hashtag among the most-trafficked in the world Tuesday, creating a public relations nightmare for a new NYPD leadership intent on creating a more community-friendly force.

“When you’re in the social space, it’s tough to predict what’s going to happen,” said Glen Gilmore, who teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University.

A similar meltdown came last November when investment giant JP Morgan Chase, which had been paying billions in fines stemming from the financial crisis, asked followers on Twitter to post career advice questions. Among them: “Did you have a specific number of people’s lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success?”

McDonald’s inadvertently ordered up some bad publicity in 2012 with its McDStories campaign. Sample response: “I walked into a McDonald’s and could smell the Type II diabetes.”

The myNYPD misfire comes at a time when new Police Commissioner William Bratton is trying to re-brand the department to counter criticism that it has been trampling on people’s civil rights. Last week, it disbanded an intelligence unit that spied on Muslim neighbourhoods, and it has promised to reforms to the crime-fighting tactic known as stop and frisk.

Bratton acknowledged Wednesday that the Twitter campaign may not have been fully thought through.

“Was that particular reaction from the some of the police adversaries anticipated? To be quite frank, it was not,” Bratton said. “But at the same time it’s not going to cause us to change any of our efforts to be very active on social media. … It is what it is. It’s an open, transparent world.”

The myNYPD traffic was holding steady on Wednesday, but the dialogue had shifted from mockery of the NYPD to an analysis of what went wrong, including the tweet “Social Media 101: Be careful what you ask for.”

Anthony Rotolo, a professor of digital communications at Syracuse University, suggested another appropriate response could have been SMH — shake my head.

“A lot of time the eagerness to embrace social media tools overshadows our common sense,” Rololo said. “In other types of media, we would not so quickly jump to something like this without doing our groundwork first.”

Still, there was some evidence Wednesday that the outreach may bear fruit.

One person posted a photo of herself standing next to an officer on horseback in Times Square. Another posted a picture of two smiling officers on patrol and wrote, “These guys put their lives on the line every day. They deserve our respect and gratitude.”

Just Posted

Photos: Red Deer barn dance entertains children, adults Tuesday

Hundreds of Central Albertans started their Westerner Days celebrations early with an… Continue reading

Manslaughter charge laid against Red Deer man more than a year after homicide

A manslaughter charge has been laid against a Red Deer man, more… Continue reading

Woman facing charges after pedestrian critically injured in hit and run

A woman is in custody in connection with an alleged hit and… Continue reading

Friday hail storm came at a bad time for farmers

Amount of damage a hail storm does often depends on how far along crops are

Record 10 homers as AL wins All-Star Game 8-6 in 10 innings

American League 8 National League 6 (1o innings) WASHINGTON — A record… Continue reading

Photos: Red Deer barn dance entertains children, adults Tuesday

Hundreds of Central Albertans started their Westerner Days celebrations early with an… Continue reading

Man suffers critical injuries, Red Deer police arrest woman in pedestrian crash

A man is in hospital with critical injuries and Mounties have arrested… Continue reading

Cull hasn’t been able to solve bunny burden in Alberta mountain town of Canmore

CANMORE, Alta. — Problems persist in an Alberta mountain town overrun with… Continue reading

Canada should help Holocaust denier on trial in Germany: civil liberties group

OTTAWA — A civil liberties group is urging the Canadian government to… Continue reading

Westerner Days: Send us your photos

Your reader photo may just make the pages of the Adovcate.

Adam Henrique signs $29.1M, 5-year extension with Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Centre Adam Henrique has signed a $29.1 million, five-year… Continue reading

Fashion firms upend design routine to focus on speed, trends

NEW YORK — Prototypes? Passe. Fashion company Betabrand saw that knitwear was… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month