Many police and fire departments make good, efficient use of their digital spaces, but for many others there are four types of PD/FD websites: The old, the ugly, the never-been-updated and – worst of all – the city/town’s website.
As budgets continuously crunch, many departments have simply given up on their own dot-com or dot-org website, or given in to pressure by city or town government to combine websites under a single municipal umbrella.
This is a bad idea.
Giving up your own brand is something you may never get back. When you give up your department’s website to the town, you are also giving up control over your digital presence. In this day and age, it is extremely important for police and fire departments to have direct control over both their brand and their message so that during a critical incident or crisis you can communicate with your public directly and without technical delays or political considerations.
In New England, this means BPDNews.com for the Boston Police Department. You’ll note that BPD has a spot on the city’s official website, but when it comes to news, everything is on their own website/blog.
This also means posting content at 4 a.m., if necessary, without scrambling for passwords and cell phone numbers.
If you have a police-involved shooting or a serious fire and need to get a statement out to the press late at night, do you know how to reach your city or town IT director to update the website? I have case studies of communities here in New England that have spent $100,000-plus on a new municipal website only to have its department heads refuse to learn the software, resulting in a dormant and very expensive billboard as opposed to a dynamic, living digital presence.
But for all four of these troublesome website topics there is a single solution, and it should never break the bank: Make a new website.
Sounds easy, right?
At JGPR, we specialize in police, fire and municipal government, and our biggest customer base is police departments. John Guilfoil Public Relations LLC has more than 150 police departments in its client family, and for nearly 100 of them we have been asked not just for press releases, media training, communications strategy, and logistical support, but also for a new website. Without making this a complete sales pitch, here are some things you should consider when it comes to re-building your website:
- Keep your domain name and renew it. That should not cost more than $20 per year. If you are using a company that charges you significantly more, you are being ripped off.
- Use WordPress. The WordPress platform makes it easy for anyone – even a chief – to update and make changes to your website. It is also well-supported and secure. We use it for all of our websites.
- Host the website off site. Never host it inside your police or fire station.
- Be wary of free themes and plugins for your website, especially if they have not been updated in over six months.
- Hire a professional photographer. Your local newspaper probably employs some talented freelancers with great equipment. For under $500 you can get yourself some great artwork to use in designing your site and for future marketing use.
- If you decide to hire JGPR to design your website, we will work with any budget, especially if you are interested in an ongoing public relations relationship with our company.
Last but not least, assuming your department has a Twitter account and Facebook page (it should), we can configure your WordPress website to automatically publish your blog posts, press releases, events and news directly to your social media channels. This means you can save hours each week by logging into one place – your new website – and updating all of your digital channels at the same time. It also means you can assign lower level employees, even dispatchers, patrol officers and firefighters to the website and social media, without giving them the Twitter password or Facebook access. This results in fewer accidents and a decreased chance of — even temporarily — losing access to your social media accounts.
A new, functioning website makes a tremendous difference, and it should not be overlooked as you review and modernize your public information policies.
If you are interested in a quote, email [email protected] or call 617-993-0003 anytime!