I loved watching the Seattle Police Department (@seattlePD) this week on Twitter.

At times, I found myself double-checking to see if they had been hacked because it is entirely rare to see a government entity get so comfortable on social media that they were tossing back one-liners to their audience and being downright hilarious.

If you haven’t heard about their latest attention-grabbing headline, this past week, the Seattle Police Department got involved in Hempfest by handing out bags of Doritos to the attendees of this festival, labeled with specific information about Initiative 502 which legalized marijuana in the State of Washington.


As you’ll see from this label, the Seattle Police Department does not sound like most government agencies.

Let’s admit it, if most of our agencies had been tasked with coming up with a “handout” for this public education event, we would have created something way more official and serious, right?

There are 2 important lessons you learn when you’re involved in social media:

  1. People have a 7 second attention span….if you’re lucky.  Your ability to catch your audience is measured in seconds.  Can you grab your audience quickly?
  2. People don’t read unless they need to or unless it is posted ALL OVER THE PLACE because everyone else is reading it.  I guarantee you that even non-marijuana smokers were reading the label on these Dorito bags.  Why? Because it was being shared and reshared on Twitter, Facebook, newspapers and being read on national TV news programs.

The challenge of public education, in the social media age, is not to stay in the box.  You have to jump outside the box, burn the box, and redefine your boxes in ways that they don’t even look like boxes anymore.

It is important for all of us to think about our outreach efforts and be relevant to each audience.  If you aren’t tailoring your message in new and creative ways, you will reach the same people that you always reach.  Just imagine if your message could reach millions?  In fact, imagine how cool we could make emergency preparedness if we were all thinking outside the box and known for our creativity in public safety.

National Preparedness Month is just around the corner.  How are you approaching your mission to prepare your community in new ways thanks to social media?

Be relevant to your audiences.  Meet your community where it is at….and not where you think it should be.

Thanks, Seattle PD, for an inspirational example of meeting your community in creative ways.

hempfest pic



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