Laura Haddock and Simon Kinsmore look after the AFP’s social media channels. (ABC News: Kate Midena)
“Relax, I’m not a stripper.”
Those are not words you would expect from an Australian Federal Police member, but they were front and centre of the agency’s most successful social media video.
The AFP’s video spoof of the infamous placard scene from Love Actually — designed to communicate what the federal police force do — reached over 4 million people.
But if you follow the AFP on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even Linked In, you already know that the homage to the popular romantic comedy is only the tip of the iceberg.
From posts about Game of Thrones and DJ Kahled to sentencing decisions about child exploitation, the AFP’s social media channels have acquired an engaged and aware following.
So who is the brain behind these platforms?
Meet Laura Haddock, Senior Social Media Officer at the AFP.
Senior Social Media Officer Laura Haddock says social media helps the AFP to build an engaged audience. (ABC News: Kate Midena)
“I’m a girl, not a bloke!” she laughed.
“A lot of people comment and say, ‘The bloke who runs this account is so funny!’
“Can we just tell them I am a girl? Heaven forbid a female be funny.”
Ms Haddock works as part of a 10-strong media team of unsworn officers, where every post is carefully brainstormed before it hits Facebook’s wall.
“Getting the AFP voice takes everyone in the team,” Ms Haddock said.
“People would be surprised at the amount of work that goes into what seems like a flyaway post.
“I sense-check just about everything and get the team’s ideas on whether that’s going to fly.
“It’s always good to get a couple of opinions.”
‘It’s a fine line’
Facebook is the AFP’s primary social media account, with over 400,000 followers.
However, there are a lot of restrictions around what the AFP can and cannot post, particularly when it comes to outstanding warrants and court cases.
“We’ve got to consider the victims of crime and how it’s going to matter to them; we have to be mindful of ongoing court proceedings too,” Simon Kinsmore, the AFP’s Coordinator of Media, Production and Online Services, explained.
“We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what we say without crossing it and compromising operations.
“It’s a fine line and you’ve got to be so careful not to cross it.”
The strategy behind much of the AFP’s social media presence is to create a relationship with their audience, so they are more aware of what the AFP does, and how they can help in crime prevention.
“Social media’s a great humaniser,” Mr Kinsmore said.
“Love Actually really helped us tell the story of what the AFP does, because that was the problem.
“Now people know we don’t just handle terrorism, we handle money laundering, we handle drugs, we handle child exploitation.”
Ms Haddock said building community confidence and trust was also a key part of the strategy.
“People in community policing have more touchpoints with police,” she said.
“Being the Australian Federal Police, we’ve got a much broader audience.
“Our social channel is a major tool for us to reach the public on a significant scale, educate them about the work we do, and build a really engaged audience in a way we couldn’t do before social media existed.”
Polls, GIFs, videos and more
Alongside specially-curated videos, polls, GIFs and images are used to draw the audience in.
“Someone smuggled ice in an esky, so we did a post playing on ‘Pablo Esky Brah’; that was a cracker,” Ms Haddock said.
“We had another one using lots of references to DJ Khaled — with lines like ‘We’ve arrested ANOTHA one’.
“We did a poll about watching Game of Thrones legally, there was so much debate around the GIFs we picked for that.”
But Ms Haddock said there were areas that police could not make light-hearted jokes about.
“So when we do go for that humour angle, it is very considered,” she said.
“We know that by using humour we could potentially reach more people and get our message across.”
Ms Haddock said it meant that when it came to communicating more serious messages, they were just as well received.
“At the end of the day, we want to be able to send crime prevention messages and, more importantly, disseminate critical information when we need to,” said Ms Haddock.
“If there is a major incident, that tapped in, engaged audience, who engage with our funny posts, are more receptive to serious messages.”
While Facebook is not used by the AFP to solve crime — and Ms Haddock and Mr Kinsmore are quick to point people to CrimeStoppers — there are instances where the AFP has been able to harness the power of social media to locate missing people.
“We had an incident where a car was stolen with a baby in the back of it,” Mr Kinsmore said.
“We threw it out there on social media, and within 20 minutes we had a phone call saying, ‘Hey I saw your Facebook post, that car is in front of my house and the baby’s in the back of the car.
“It’s been a bit of a journey but it shows us we’re in a really good place now with the people we’re reaching.”
‘It’s been really well received’
It is not just Facebook where the AFP have seen growth and engagement. They have also had local success with Twitter, and international success with Instagram.
“We’re using Instagram stories to break down things like our media releases in a fun, bite-sized way,” Ms Haddock said.
“Then, in the wake of Christchurch, we used Instagram stories as a platform for issuing our Commissioner’s statement, and Facebook actually pulled that out as a shining example of how law enforcement is using social media.
“It’s been really well received.”
And Ms Haddock said there was also a lot of sharing of ideas and collaboration between law enforcement agencies around the world.
“New Zealand do [social media] really well,” she said, referencing their Running Man social media campaign, and their actions in response to the Christchurch attack.
“Whether it’s state or federal or international, we all do work together and share information.”
The AFP work with other police jurisdictions; they love having a laugh with them as well. (Facebook: AFP)
“In law enforcement the golden rule is never speak on behalf of another agency,” Mr Kinsmore added.
“So we always adopt that single point of truth. So New Zealand police were the single point of truth for Christchurch. Here, NSW Police were the lead with the Etihad Airways bomb in 2017.”
But Ms Haddock said at the heart of it all was the AFP’s desire to prevent crime and protect people.
“When we get those serious posts that get well shared about things like child exploitation, I see that as a real win,” she said.
“People always comment and say they’re here for the comments or they’re here for the LOLs, but it shows that people are really receptive to those more serious messages.
“Behind the humour there is that serious objective.”
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