- Contact Name: Public Relations Manager, Corinne Geller
- Contact Phone: 804.674.2789
- Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: 1/15/2011
The Virginia State Police (VSP) serves the Commonwealth of Virginia with approximately 2,500 sworn and civilian personnel. VSP is divided into seven geographical field divisions to serve more than 7.8 million citizens and 5.3 million licensed drivers. Even outside the VSP’ official boundaries, the Commonwealth is traditionally divided into distinct regions, and events that occur in one region such as the northern Virginia area rarely get reported in other regions such as Hampton Roads (located in south eastern Virginia). Public Relations Manager, Corinne Geller, has found that social media tools allow her to reach beyond these boundaries with VSP traffic and public safety messages, investigative information, emergency alerts, and recruitment campaigns at no cost to the Department.
VSP’s social media presence began with YouTube in January 2009. The launch of VSP’s channel coincided with the Presidential inauguration. There was a very complicated and particular traffic plan in place for the event and VSP officials realized that there would be people who would need the information but did not watch the local news and who were traveling from beyond the Washington, D.C. metro area. So, VSP simply videotaped the press conference explaining the traffic patterns and procedures for the inauguration and posted the video on YouTube. The video was viewed that week by a few thousand people.
In October 2009, VSP found social media to be an integral part of the investigation into the disappearance of a university student. It became very apparent that social media had implications for many aspects of VSP’s operations and so they began planning their Facebook presence. VSP launched their Facebook page in March 2010 to correspond with the anniversary of a well-known unsolved homicide. They had 7,000 fans by the end of the first week and nine months later their fans number over 24,000. The success of the Facebook launch reached beyond numbers of fan; renewed attention was given to the unsolved case and several new leads were generated.
Geller highly recommends tying in the launch of a social media platform with a big event or other law enforcement-oriented incident, so as to still attract traditional media coverage. Such cross-promotion has proven to be a successful strategy for both VSP’s YouTube and Facebook pages, and the event or investigation.
VSP has several articulated goals when it comes to their social media presence. One of these goals is to get their message out clearly and widely. Using social media, there is no filter and VSP’s message is not being slanted or watered down by anyone else. The messages are also instantaneous, there is no longer a need to conform to traditional news cycles or compete for space in a publication, television news program, or news website. Social media gives VSP the ability to communicate their own message with an audience that transcends any traditional boundaries or cycles.
Geller notes that social media has also created a very positive return on investment. The community has used Facebook to thank not only VSP but also individual troopers. Geller passes on those messages to the noted personnel and supervisors, who without this method of interaction may never have known how supported and appreciated they are.