SMILE Quick Take: How police can manage their narrative using social media

Dave Carroll, an indie musician who used social media to get an important message across, was the keynote speaker at SMILE


Dave Carroll, an indie musician and star of the famous viral video, “United Breaks Guitars,” gave the keynote speech on day one of the 2015 Social Media and Internet in Law Enforcement (SMILE) conference to shed some light on the power of storytelling and social media as a platform of empowerment.

Quick Summary:
Carroll’s video was inspired by a customer service nightmare he endured after a United Airlines flight to a series of shows. His guitar was mishandled by employees — resulting in damages that left the instrument virtually destroyed. After a long back-and-forth with customer service, the airline denied they were at fault. The video Carroll created about the incident garnered national attention and news coverage.

Memorable Quotes:
“You have incredible power to make change in the world.”

“It’s never been easier to cut through the noise.”

"Sh*t's going to happen, but you have the choice to decide whether your pants are half full or half empty." 

3 Key Takeaways:

  1. The ripple effect of the video’s popularity: an increase in CD sales, national coverage, invites to speak at conferences, and a public relations nightmare for United. Carroll highlighted these effects to show just how much impact a single piece of effective storytelling on social media can have.
  2. Social media is an opportunity for cops to build their brand. Carroll’s video turned a negative situation into a positive and got the word out about what he does every day.
  3. His advice for cops: you have the power to tell the story better. In an age where we are all connected, departments have an unprecedented ability to manage their narrative. If done well, storytelling can start, shape, or reclaim a conversation.

Other Observations:
Your message needs to go where the people are social media. It is vital to embrace the medium because it offers the opportunity for the widest reach.

Carroll, who is also a volunteer firefighter, wrote a song in tribute to first responders, ‘Everyday Heroes.’ Check out his performance of it at SMILE below (18:00 mark) and visit his website to read stories about the impact first responders have had in their communities.

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