Cops Take Back Their Image With the Lip Sync Challenge
We’re not just talking about a couple thousand views, police lip sync videos are getting tens of thousands and in the case of Norfolk, millions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
There’s a grassroots revolution going on in American policing where cops are taking back their own image. It’s called the lip sync challenge.
We live in a world where some believe that most (all?) cops are brutal thugs, Crime in America. American policing has been blasted by the media for videos that, without context, make us out to be less than human, Crime in America. Tragically, some of those videos show officers clearly in the wrong.
I previously wrote that cops are taking back their image with creative posts and imaginative content creation on Facebook and other social media platforms. Cops have been taking a beating in many quarters. Recruitment and retention are now issues for many police agencies per media reports.
I have also criticized law enforcement for not being aggressive enough when it comes to promoting themselves, especially through video and social media, Crime in America.
As a former senior spokesperson for law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, I traveled the country going to conferences pushing police and other agencies to create their own public relations through the aggressive use of video, audio, and photography. Content creation and distribution via social media is the best way to control your own message.
But agencies expressed fear over the technology and putting out materials that could backfire. The majority were simply afraid of taking the challenge. The reasons for this reluctance? They thought that content creation was too complex, too time-consuming, too abstract. Lawyers and administrators urged caution. They were simply afraid of their own PR.
Lip Sync Challange
Then, boom, out of nowhere came the lip sync challenge where average police officers mimic the lyrics to popular songs via a video uploaded to YouTube or Facebook, see an overview compiled by CBS below:
We’re not talking about a couple thousands of views, these videos are getting tens of thousands and in the case of Norfolk Police Department (below), millions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Others Control Our Image
In the rule of overly cautious bureaucracies, administrators, and lawyers, law enforcement agencies have been content to let others control the public relations battle. That process leads to an abundance of negative media to the point where cops are asking themselves whether the job is worth it.
As stated above, law enforcement agencies have seen an exodus of experienced officers and recruitment is harder than ever. Understaffing is dier in corrections where prisons are now chronically understaffed.
We become cops because the public needs people to come to their aid and help solve their problems. Essentially, they trust us. Take that trust away, there isn’t much of a reason to be a cop.
Norfolk Police Department’s Viral Video
In the world of creative self-generated content creation, the Norfolk Police Department took events to the upper stratosphere with their version of lip sync challenge, see below:
It’s an elaborately staged and creative video with multiple sequences and officers progressing through a building to an outside courtyard with motorcycles, tactical vehicles, and fire trucks. You can’t watch without smiling.
Search Facebook, YouTube or other social media platforms for #lipsyncchallenge or #lipsyncbattle and you will get endless additional examples.
I spoke to Officer Jo Ann Hughes in the public information office of the Norfolk Police Department to get an overview as to who and why they made the video. You can see Jo Ann on the right side of the video throughout.
It Was Shot With an iPhone
They shot the video with an iPhone which is a wonderful use of existing technology. The soundtrack came from a boom-box. They used iMovie to edit. It was all done in one take after some practice sessions. There was little to no editing. They do not consider themselves to be video experts.
“We had no idea as to the impact of the video,” said Jo Ann. As of today, the video has over 30 million views and has been featured on CBS News, The Today Show, Inside Edition and endless other media outlets.
The Norfolk Police Department was challenged by the Corinth, Texas police after they did their video, see Corinth Police-Facebook. A former Norfolk officer was responsible for the challenge.
Local media and citizens saw the dare and asked the Norfolk PD to accept.
They met the previous week to plan. The video was shot during most officer’s lunch hour with some coming in on their day off.
Ninety-eight percent of the responses have been very positive.
“The chief is very proactive with community engagement and showing the positive side of police work,” per Officer Hughes.
“The video shows that we are just like everyone else. It says that we are human, we are the good guys. When you see negative videos of policing, they do not represent the overwhelming majority of police officers. Our message is, do not be afraid of us. We want to be part of the community. We want to be people you can trust. We want to make Norfolk a safer community.”
“The video has brought the community together in an interesting and powerful way.”
It has, however, brought marriage proposals for the lead person in the video.
I have stated endlessly that the tools we need to self-promote are hanging on our belts. Our smartphones and free video editing tools are available now to create an impressive production with minimal time and labor invested.
I offered a comprehensive promotional plan in my book, “Success With The Media,” available through a variety of booksellers, Amazon.
It’s way past time for law enforcement and government agencies to create their own audio, video, and photography and get it out to the public. It’s time for us to control our own public relations destiny.
Will lip sync videos change the image of law enforcement? Yes! You simply can’t buy this kind of publicity; it’s collectively telling tens of millions of viewers that cops are human. Popular television shows make us out to be robotic creatures with grim expressions as we solve complex cases in thirty minutes; they are unrealistic. Lip sync videos show cops are just regular people.
The cops I knew were funny, caring, dedicated people who were committed to enforcing the law fairly and justly. Most people intrinsically understand this which is why cops are trusted by most.
But negative videos have taken a toll. Average cops reject this narrative and are fighting back with humor and humanity.
It’s time for police and all agencies take the social media and content creation revolution seriously and join the ranks of Norfolk.
It’s time to take our public relations into our own hands.
Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. You can contact me at [email protected].