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"Humorous posts are popular... I also think you can't force humour either" - Managing social media for gardaí

We chatted to the director of communications about social media management.

IT CAN BE hard work managing the communications and social media output for gardaí and mistakes have been made down the years

Addressing the annual PRII (public relations institute) conference yesterday, director of communications with An Garda Síochána Andrew McLindon recalled one event that caused him some trouble.

“We have made mistakes. We tweeted out something about a crash just off the M50 – it involved a female driver,” he said.

“We put out a tweet basically saying ‘can you guess whether it’s a female or a male driver?’”

Retrospectively not the best thing to do and that leads to a front page story in the Sun rightly criticising us.

However, McLindon said he didn’t receive a call from the Commissioner telling him to shut down the social media output because he had already built up “credibility”.

“What you really need to do is demonstrate credibility and the impact and effectiveness of what you’re doing,” he said.

People can see now internally the benefit of doing it.

Social media

Speaking to after his speech, McLindon explained the approach the gardaí took to communicating with the public across different media platforms.

Gardaí in recent years have had a strong presence on social media, particularly on Twitter, where the @GardaTraffic account has around 262,000 followers.

The account tweets out all kinds of information about operations, appeals and others.

“I would say that social media is more effective between 18 and 25 year olds,” said McLindon.

He explained that other forms of media (for example, taking out ads in local papers) are used to communicate messages to different age demographics.

While the gardaí have had a social media presence before McLindon arrived, he explained that he helped to streamline it.

“Social media was there before I arrived,” he said.

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“What I kind of did was put a strategy in place and looked at how we can expand it so now we have a number of social media channels.

The @GardaTraffic account frequently uses humour to get across the people, which McLindon said is an effective way of communicating with the public and building credibility.

“We could put out dry public safety messages every day of the week, so that would fulfil the mandate of communication,” he said.

But it wouldn’t fulfil the mandate of going to everybody and actually having an impact.

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He said that different posts are popular depending on what the context is.

“Some things are more popular than others – humorous posts are popular,” he said.

Posts with animals are very popular but you just don’t know what’s going to catch the public’s imagination either.

“I also think you can’t force humour either.

If you try to be too humorous or if you try to be funny all the time I think you wouldn’t be taken seriously I think it would dilute your credibility

With reporting from Paul O’Donoghue

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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