After the Webinar: Your Story, Your Time. Q&A with Katie Nelson

Webinar presenter Katie Nelson answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Your Story, Your Time: Elevating Your Social Media Presence in the Digital Age.  Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: We are looking at our social media policies and procedures and from a planning standpoint we are really trying to determine One, how should we communicate as an agency from social media in a policies perspective? And two, what should our expectations be for our staff for our policy perspective on social media as their representatives of our organization and we can all probably think of a few examples in which that came to light recently in some other areas and cities? So do you have any insights or suggestions on how to approach either of those directions from a policy perspective? There’s a handful of people who have access to our social media accounts. I would say under 10. 

Katie Nelson: When your policy is put in place, first and foremost you should probably start thinking about how many people are going to be expected to respond to comments or create content on a regular basis. If that hasn’t been established yet, definitely worth considering only because inevitably when a crisis hits the onus on who is responding to comments will probably fall on to them. But when you have a policy in place, not only talk about what type of content is meant to represent the agency but also how you build responses into that to ensure that people who maybe are filling for a short time or whatever, they have the knowledge and understanding and it’s easily accessible for them to pick up on that and know how Scottsdale wants to sound to its community… or what is your tone? What is your voice? Are you authoritative? Do you have a little bit of fun? What does it look like? Your policy can spell all of that out. And your policy should also highlight the primary platform that you want to use. Some people believe that you need to have several platforms and you’re trying everything all the time, have at least a handful if not less, where you’re really solid on those platforms and those are your primary, that’s where your community knows to go to talk to you. And then, going forward, when you build access for folks, maybe whittle it down depending on if folks will promote out or if folks are only doing it part-time and whittle it down to those who will be doing it full time since that will ultimately their primary responsibility.



Audience Question: I actually have an observation in a room full of folks working in police agencies that the second video looks definitely staged because those officers’ desks were way too clean, clarify that in the future if there were some papers on the desks. 

Katie Nelson: I’ll do my best – I can say that definitely one of them is a neat freak… so that was not staged.



Audience Question: How do you archive Snapchat to assure your leadership that you’ve captured all of the messages and replies? 

Katie Nelson: I’ll start with the issue first for Snapchat. The issue with Snapchat is they do believe in archiving content and even their own organization, they only hold content in their end for 90 days which is in the world of government is like the blink of an eye. While the site itself, for the app I should say because it’s not actually online, the app itself does not archive, we have followed the Fort Collins Model out of Colorado where we have a default message anytime somebody sends us something, that indicates any conversation that it had is being screen-captured through our phone and then we build folders on our desktops or our laptops and we retain that information there on our server. So every time there is a new response, every time we follow up, we screen capture then save it. So that’s our workaround for now. Is that a foolproof method? Absolutely not. You can always choose to only open conversations at certain times. We’ve certainly done that where we close it for certain things. But for example, when we’ve had missing children we’ve opened it up, believe it or not, they’ll actually communicate with us on that platform. But it’s up to what your agency is comfortable with and more importantly what your city attorney is comfortable with for the archival process. That’s the only one out of all the apps available that does not have an archiving tool.


Audience Question: When you say you should create content for mobile-first, can you share what does that mean? 

Katie Nelson: That means when you look down at your phone, are you having to scroll down to the bottom of the page like you have to do unfortunately like on a majority of government websites to get to the content? When you look at your phone, is it easily accessible? If you were to open an app and go to the page for like the Mountain View Police Department, are you seeing something on there that’s easily consumable? Do you have to read through a bunch of text to get to a link? Do you have to scroll through a bunch to see a photo that you like? Everything that you do, think of it as, if they are to pull out their phone and look down, is it easily accessible?



Audience Question: Can you tell us a little bit more about how your organization is structured? is it just you having to reply to everything or do you have a team to help to respond to situations? 

Katie Nelson: Here in Mountain View is only me. I’m a one-woman band. It is conducive to our agency – we’re a small town. We’re 12 sqm and the majority of people that live and work in Mountain View, they have come to understand how we communicate with them. We have trained essentially our community over the past several years where they can find us, how they communicate with us, when is the good time to communicate with us, things like that. I can only imagine that this will not be conducive for larger cities. For example, I’m sure there is a team in like Seattle for example, where there’s an entire group of folks specifically dedicated for social media for a city that large. Same with San Francisco, same with places like Florida. I know Boca Raton has a huge social media team and they’re very good at what they do. Gilbert, Arizona is another example. So it’s really up to what your agency is comfortable with, how you categorize or classify those jobs and if you do a work-study program for example, what ultimately comes up to be the best for your agency. Sometimes it is a one-person band, sometimes you get a team where you have everybody who understands the voice and tone of the agency. They understand the expectations. It really ultimately comes up to how you can fund it and what works best for you.



Audience Question: What is your press release process and can MVPD dispatch post and if so on what platforms? 

Katie Nelson: Up until 2012 we have an email lister where we were having to constantly update it and send it out to all the reporters and community members that we had emailed for. And as we really started to see a transition into the Digital Age here in Silicon Valley, we realized that that was not working in terms of ensuring everybody had access to our information. So, we switched up our model a little bit. At the time, we created a blog where we were actually hosting our press releases and we would subsequently share the press releases or the links to the press release on Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor. Now, starting about 2017 we realized that blogs are starting to fall away, at least in our area. They’re not as prominent as they once were. Now we have a signup option on our website where people can go up and actually choose where they prefer to receive information from the city of Mountain View which includes the police department and they can sign up to get emails anytime we upload a new press release to our city website. Now, we still share that exact same information on all of our social media channels and we have multiple avenues for folks to be able to obtain that – if they prefer a link, we include a link. If they would like to read just a text in their particular app, they have that option too. So it’s really figuring what your community prefers and kind of tweaking – again your communication strategy around how people are responding to the ways you are sharing information.


Audience Question: Does your department use LinkedIn and if so what for? 

Katie Nelson: So we do have a LinkedIn page. It is primarily and only used for recruitment, however. And we have noticed that you have a very niche group of people on LinkedIn. It is strictly professional. That is not a place where you really get to tell stories or have fun the way that you would perhaps on other platforms. But when we have ways that we want to highlight what Mountain View PD is and who we are. We use LinkedIn to tell that story especially when we’re in a recruitment period. We will share, for example, we have a podcast and so every time we have a new podcast uploaded, we will share it on there, in the event that people are curious or interested about just how we work and how we operate and why we’re a little bit different and a little bit funkier from other departments and how we have a little bit more fun. But beyond that, we keep that very professional. The use of that really ebbs and flows more so than it does in any other platform.



Audience Question: In terms of sharing body cam videos, specifically in the YouTube shooting, how did MVPD balance the desire to share information with the potential impact – what I’m assuming was an ongoing investigation? 

Katie Nelson: I will say anytime the Feds are involved you do exactly what they say. You don’t get to jump ahead and be like, “Oh we’ll share and we’ll just deal with it later.” When we had this incident unfold, we knew almost immediately that we wanted to share the body cam footage. However, because there were federal investigators involved, we had a conversation and we shared the video with them first. So, they were able to watch it to determine whether or not our interaction with the woman who committed the shooting, if that was in any way going to be involved in the larger investigation. Within a week, we heard back saying that it was a freak coincidence that that happened and we were free to go ahead and release the information. During that period, we had several requests from national and international media and we were under the jurisdiction both the California Public Records Act and the Federal Law for Information Release and so we were able to hold off on releasing the video because of those requirements under those 2 laws but the interim we knew that we needed to prep and so there were actually several days where we were building the press release, answering all the questions that we could think of to include in there so that when we got the okay to release the video we had the context, we had the captioning done, we had the ability for people to access the video without being able to download it directly,  we have all these contingencies in place so that when the release did occur it was done with the expectation that this is would look like going forward.



Audience Question: What was the total lapse time from the incident to the release approximately? 

Katie Nelson: One week and in reality now – especially if you’re listening from California on this phone, with the new law that’s in place, in reality, you probably have about 72 hours before you put out a video and no more than probably 10 days even though the law said you have 45 days. The longer you wait to put out a video, the longer the story’s going to get and there’s going to be assumptions taking place.



Audience Question: I can understand wanting to clarify online mischaracterizations, but at what point do you stop responding for fear of appearing argumentative? 

Katie Nelson: There’s actually a very fine line, especially city departments and police departments across the country who had that switch flipped and suddenly they become very defensive and it immediately turns off the follower or the audience because you can read that tone and you can hear that voice. I would say our three-strikes rule probably is the best way to go about doing that and the tone always take the high ground. Obviously always be polite, be professional,  do as much de-escalation as possible in those three responses but if you’re still seeing issues on the third question that comes in that’s similar to the rest definitely just be like “If you have any additional questions, please email us here… or message us directly.” Because again, you don’t want to get so frustrated as a social media manager and it comes across online because all it takes is one time and that’s where the trolls come in and that’s where the fuel starts and it devolves from there.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Your Story, Your Time: Elevating Your Social Media Presence in the Digital Age. 

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