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What can we learn from #MyNYPD?


There’s been a lot of debate online this week in regards to the NYPD and the #MyNYPD campaign. For those that aren’t aware, Police Commissioner William J Bratton is presently ‘reshaping the perceptions’ of his officers and the people of New York in relation to the force using primarily content marketing, rich media and social media marketing.

The concept…

The idea behind #MyNYPD was to encourage people to share pictures of themselves (real time or historical) with an officer or officers and then upload those images to social networks like Twitter including the hash tag #MyNYPD. The idea was to bring people and officers closer together, celebrate the work that the NYPD does and generate some brilliant engagement opportunities. Unfortunately, the end result was not quite as expected and left alot to be desired in terms of positive outreach for the department.

What went wrong? 

#MyNYPD is a great example of a well intended idea ‘gone bad’ and one that has unfortunately hit the NYPD pretty hard. Not only has the backlash been a strong one, the fallout has also been far reaching. The fact that we are still talking about this even here in the UK, reaffirms what a blow this has to have been for the NYPD Vs. the overall objective of generating engagement and showcasing good relationships between the police force and the communities it protects.

Despite setting out with the sole purpose of engaging and inspiring people, the NYPD instead effectively kicked the ‘sleeping bear of racism and prejudice’ square in his hypothetical nether region. The bear (now quite a lot more awake a tad less than pleased) has understandably retaliated by delivering a steady precession of short, sharp hammer blows (usually in the form of inflammatory tweets, posts and photos) down upon the unsuspecting NYPD.

So where and why did this campaign go wrong? Failure is par for the course with social media, you definitely don’t hit bullseye with every promotion! But like all things search, social media is usually always about experiencing success and failure in equal measure and we really only really ever hear about the campaigns that go really well, or like in this instance, really badly! So in summary, this was a simple but very ambitious campaign that sought to capture the hearts and minds of civilians and Police officers alike, but unfortunately achieved neither.


Had the time been taken to elaborate on, discuss, identify and work out some of the challenges that #MyNYPD could throw up, then there is an argument that there would have been a contingency plan in place to deal with the negative sentiment they received to the campaign. But we aren’t for one second going to climb a pedestal, assume the guise of Captain Hindsight and poo poo the work! Because it was an extremely brave and well intended campaign that unfortunately didn’t work and that’s quite simply that! There is still so much to take and learn from the effort despite the fallout and even some positives would you believe!

Zachary Tumin is the Deputy Commissioner and heads up Strategic Initiatives for the New York Police Department with Commissioner Bratton. He said of the matter that “It is an unalloyed good,” That response was also echoed by Commissioner Bratton who said that there was ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ and that the whole episode would “in no way change the department’s approach – If anything, I welcome the extra attention.” It is worth noting at this point that the department has actually gained some 4,000 followers since the story broke, so the fact that there have actually been some wins in all of this is pretty undeniable.

Phil Treagus, MD of Giraffe Social Media, had this to say about dealing with social media campaigns that fail; “Whether a campaign is successful or fails, there is always a lesson.  There are always lessons to be learned when you try anything new online – so for me it’s important to remind ourselves that failure is simply a manmade concept; despite its negative connotations, we shouldn’t fear failure.  True failure is either not trying in the first place or failing to learn from our failures.  True creative’s embrace failure, as it brings them closure to success.”

What did you think of the whole #MyNYPD campaign? We’d be keen to get everyone’s thoughts! Leave us a comment or tweet us @GiraffeSM

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