Webinar presenter Corey Dobridnia answered a number of your questions after her presentation, The Public Relations Aspect of Law Enforcement: Creating Internal Agency Buy-in within Your Agency from Day 1. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Corey, talk a little bit more about the videos. Did it take a lot of convincing to get the deputies to do the videos? What has the response been like for both the agency and the public?
Corey Dobridnia: That’s a great question and like what I talked about in the beginning, don’t let me give you a facade that I walked into the agency and people embraced me as soon as I got there because that would be misrepresenting what actually occurred. It took me a long time to actually get to know people and to be able to reach out and touch them. I do mean in person. What I was going to say was I did get a lot of pushback when I first got to the agency but I feel like building those relationships was super important when you got that I don’t know I still want my picture on Facebook or I’m not good on camera or I don’t know. I’m not the face of the agency. Convincing those people took time. Once you get one person and you share their story then other people are like okay that was not so hard. I do on-camera training with the deputies to listen nobody wants to see me on camera. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m a civilian. Members of the community want to see a uniform, they want to see a badge. They want to see their deputies on camera. In that new hire academy, I do a little bit of interview training and I think that once they realize that it is not so scary and all I’m really asking them to do is be genuine, the nervousness kinds of fades away. I was a reporter for many years. I would like to say that I’m a good interviewer and making people feel so comfortable and letting them know, hey listen, just tell me what happened like you would talk to your mom. It kinds of gets that nervousness to melt away. Yeah, people were nervous at first. Will (?), it didn’t take a whole lot convincing because he was ecstatic to become a deputy. This was his lifelong dream and his dad was so excited. It didn’t take him a whole lot of convincing. Now the other deputies aside from Sgt. (?), there were a couple of male deputies and in that second video. It took them a little bit of convincing because they were nervous but I said listen the community wants to know who you are, they want to know who’s serving them. Really, I want you to understand how meaningful you are to them. Just do this for me. It’ll take two to three minutes, you won’t even know I’m doing it. You don’t even have to look at the camera. It takes a little bit of convincing but once they see the product and it makes them proud to leave that. It’s a game-changer and especially when it’s about them and it really is. It is about them. It’s not about me, it’s not about the Sherriff. It’s not about any of those people. It’s about them and it should be.
Audience Question: You talked about training for new hires. Can you get a little bit more into the specifics like how do you go at teaching the values and the branding to your recruits and new hires? Can you talk a little bit more about the specifics of what you cover, how long does it take, all that kind of good stuff?
Corey Dobridnia: I’ve had a lot of practice at this because I teach branding to multiple audiences. I’ve been asked to do this. The first thing that you need to do is be friendly with your training department. I just mean you have to figure out who’s holding this academy, who’s doing the onboarding process whether that’s HR or training. You need to say listen, this is valuable, this is a value add. We need to be teaching people this and go at it that way. Once you can approve I take about a two or three-hour block with each group of new hires. I teach them about what we do on social media, what our strategy is on social media. What’re their expectations are. you can actually go to our website, waltonso.org. It’s just the second half of my email. Under the career opportunities or contact us, there is an expectation letter. I go through that letter with them and listen say you are expected to work holidays and you are expected to be on time because when you are not on time you are leaving out one of your people out to dry. You are expected to represent your agency in a professional manner. In addition to that, we go over the social media policy for our personal use. We tell them if your personal life becomes our problem, that’s an issue. If you are posting horrible things on FB and Instagram, that becomes our problem. If you do anything that embarrasses the agency, it becomes our problem. I sit down with them and go over different scenarios and we do I will use examples from around the country and show them like we don’t want these things to happen so we want your feedback. Is there something that you are upset about, don’t take to social media. Come to us. I kind of give them that open-door policy but I go over my entire job and what it is and what it entails and how my job is pretty much to look at us, look at our agency but when we do something bad my job is also hey we are falling on our sword, we did this bad thing. We’re trying to fix it. I think that just communicating your strategy as best as you can. Listen, you may not have a strategy yet and that all needs to be built but I think that getting them in the same room with you and having an open conversation about their expectations and your brand, it is very important. It may not be a formal process. It may not be a take a quiz. I want you to see branding. It may just be telling them that listen, our sheriff’s office isn’t macho men who want to kick in doors. Our sheriff’s office is X. Our sheriff’s office is about customer service. Our sheriff’s office is about changing tires, not writing traffic tickets. It may just be that sort of open conversation.
Audience Question: Corey, there is an old saying that says marketing or in this case, PR is too important to be left just to the marketing department. It sounds like you found ways to enlist the whole agency to help you make sure the message of your agency is embodied through all of your people and it’s getting out to your community in every action that they take. How hard was it to get everybody on board with that?
Corey Dobridnia: It’s a struggle but I really have felt like since I started doing this new hire training it has improved so much and now it’s infiltrating to the people who have been here since before my new hire training. I have deputies who now and again this isn’t the norm but I have deputies I have recruited to take photos for me and do videos for me. What I have done is I’ve gotten to know them so well that I know what they do in their off time and I’m like these are really good photographers. She’s a really good videographer. I encourage them to get out there. If your FTO is doing something great, take some pictures or if you have a break and you guys and you guys are out on the beach, take a couple of pictures. Send them to me. Yes, I think that with the people that I have taught what our brand is and what is expected of them, I think that it is going very well. Just like cancer can spread, good bacteria can spread for lack of a better word. Once you get that feel good I want to do right, I want to show off how awesome my organization is, it will spread. The opposite can happen too. Just beware.
Audience Question: You talked about your smartphone app. How did you get that built? How long did it take? Was it super expensive?
Corey Dobridnia: This is a shameless plug. I didn’t put it in my presentation, I was asked to ahead of time. I had a really bad experience with a website designer and an app designer. When the Sherriff asked and that’s what it was called. It’s called The Sherriff app. I believe they also have the Public Safety app. That’s the company’s name, it’s the Sherriff app. When they came to me in my office, this is not a joke, I told them to go away. I didn’t even want to talk to them I was very ahead, I had a bad taste in my mouth from the previous salesperson that tried to sell me an app and disappeared and took our money and I was very aggravated with the whole thing. He came to me, his name is Jay Baxter with the Sherriff app. He said that let me prove you wrong. Let me build you an app that you will love. I have to say that since becoming a public information officer, I’ve redone our website, I have changed our entire communications strategy. I’ve written a style guide. Building this app through the Sherriff app was the easiest thing I have done since becoming a PIO. They did everything. I told them how I wanted it to look, what features I wanted and they made it. It was painless. It took them a couple of months and the great thing with the Sherriff app is they base it on the size of your agency. The more expensive, the more features you want, the bigger your agency. We’re a medium-sized agency so it’s not that expensive.
Audience Question: You talked about internal communications matched to your external communications. You are announcing things to your internal audience or employees before you put things out to the public. Does your voice dramatically change from an internal message to an external message? How does it shift slightly since you are talking to your internal folks who do know the jargon, who do know the ropes, who do know the inside story? How does your voice change?
Corey Dobridnia: I really don’t want to say that it is a voice change because I think that my angle changes. I don’t mean an angle in a bad way. What I mean the way is the reason I am talking to the public is for their safety. The reason that I’m talking to my people is for their knowledge and their safety so my angle changes. When I announce, I’m going to use the deputy shooting because it is the freshest in my mind. When I announced that we had a shooting what I told the public is facts and why they should trust us. What I tell my agency is hey we’ve had this happened. Our main priority is to protect our deputies. We are listening to you, if you have concerns, this is what’s going to happen, this is our plan of action and if you have any questions, you can reach out to me. My angle changes. How I’m talking to them doesn’t change because I try to be genuine. I’m not going to speak to my employees any different than I would speak to a citizen. I shouldn’t anyway. Maybe in some cases a little bit more stern if I’m trying to get my point across but my voice doesn’t change. If I’m trying to tell my citizens to lock their doors and prevent burglaries, I’m telling my deputies to hey don’t post that on social media. Don’t make us look bad. My voice doesn’t change, the angle changes. When I send out press releases to my press list I pick that press release and I say hey listen, guys, this message got sent out today, let me tell me why we wrote this press release. The number one thing is why. It’s the angle. They want to know why you made a pay change, they want to know why they went to a five-week late paycheck. They want to know why we are doing a peanut butter drive instead of a canned food drive. I think the voice doesn’t so much changes as the why.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of The Public Relations Aspect of Law Enforcement: Creating Internal Agency Buy-in within Your Agency from Day 1.