The use of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumbler and Instagram in a Coroner’s office is often looked at as taboo at best and forbidden by most. But lets look at another side of the proverbial coin and see where social media can play a valuable role in the operation and community engagement the office serves.
Coroners and Medical Examiners are often not seen; a presence behind the scenes, known agencies, but never really a subject most of the community knows much about. Unlike local police and fire who get most of the press and valor, coroners are typically forgotten.
Now I must admit, this is probably not malicious, but rather just a product of the environment and the way it’s always been. I advocate change. I say that by getting involved in the community and allowing the community into “our world”, we can change the tide of common perception. By changing perception and being noticed in a positive light, we will be in a better position to be seen as a valuable, professional agency deserving of notice.
What does being noticed matter, you might ask. Well, positive community engagement can turn the wheels that fund our agencies. It can help in re-election campaigns by allowing current office holders to be seen as real people, with real staff, who will be affected by a failed election. When people don’t know, they don’t care, and the candidate that spends the most money or with a more impressive CV, regardless of real experience, may unseat a great coroner. Great social media and community engagement is no replacement for doing a good job and operating a professional office. However, letting the public in to see how great your agency is can’t hurt.
Lets look a five rules for properly using social media
Provide Useful Information
Keep the community, your fans and followers informed. Give them a reason to follow you on their already crowded feeds. Provide information like upcoming weather conditions, disease outbreaks, medication warnings, and public service announcements. Another great use is to provide links to other expert articles or have experts guest post on your feeds.
Nothing says unprofessional like a Twitter stream or Facebook feed with old content. Imagine going to a business page and seeing the last post weeks and months ago. Is the business even still open? The community will see this as how you run your office; behind, and unengaged. They won’t see it as “oh they must really be busy”. Use an application like Buffer or Hootsuit to schedule some regular posts that automagically post to your feeds. You can supplement and add to your application as news or events need to be shared.
Be everywhere, but only where you can be. Use every social media platform available – but only the ones you can keep up with. This goes along with point number two. If Facebook and Twitter are all you can handle, fine. Don’t start accounts and every social media community, then go dark. Better not to be there than be on the roles but not present. Facebook and Twitter are number one and two respectively, with Facebook being a minimum must in my opinion.
No one likes to hear you complain and people won’t stick around for controversy and contention. Keep your social media positive and helpful. Yes you may have issues you wish you could tell the world, but your Facebook page is not the place for it. Use this media to post training your staff has completed or that your office is hosting. Make birth and wedding announcements concerning your staff. You and your staff are real people, share real things. Humanize your office and showcase your accomplishments. Mix it up though, do not make all your posts about how good you are. The rule here is 70% useful, relevant content or messages and 30% self promotion.
Engage Your Community
Social media is, well, social, and you need to engage and interact with your fans and followers. No one likes to always be talked to, rather they liked to be talked with. Engage on some of their posts, start conversations, ask questions. Here again, be real! Let people know that your office is part of the same community they are.
(Bonus) Know what you can and can not post
State law and agency policies differ around the country and the world. Most of the day to day work you do can not be posted about. However, you can post any public information or news release. If a double shooting occurred at the 2300 block of wherever and two people are dead, fine stop there. Never reveal anything that could interfere with a police investigation. But we should all know that anyway. Never post photos of bodies or bloody scenes. I would however recommend that you post a weekly or month summary of your caseload. Number of deaths, cause and manners. This is public information and will tell the public just how large your caseload is without really telling them, and the public loves the stuff.
Ships turn slow
Using social media in our offices may be a huge step for some and Coroner opinion may vary on this topic. Does the agency I’m employed with use social media you might ask? Not like we should, but again the ship is turning and social media is becoming a part of our agency operation. The practices outlined here are the same ones we are putting in place.
Last word of caution, start today. Do not wait until election year to start your social media engagement. It might very well be seen like an election strategy. This media should be used to promote the agency and for the overall good of the community. Any election benefit you might get is secondary. But again, letting the public see real people doing a real job can’t hurt.