Three police departments in Orange County, CA, advises the Huntington Beach Independent, are taking creative PR action to insure that the word gets out about activities that might be missed by the news media. They’re working with a local PR firm that uses former reporters to write features and news alerts for a new public-safety website, BehindtheBadgeOC.com. The service isn’t cheap, $4,000 a month, but it’s in the interest of effective community engagement at a trying time in Orange County’s relational world.
“This is kind of a hybrid,” says Bill Rams, co-founder of Cornerstone Communications, an Orange County PR firm, who edits Behind the Badge. “The world of journalism and public relations is changing in so many ways. Both of those industries in Orange County are facing seismic shifts as we speak.” (The site runs the items the Behind the Badge partnership feeds to Twitter.)
The Huntington Beach Police Department is apparently taking the lead in the communication initiative, paying $4,000 a month to Cornerstone on a month-to-month basis to produce the content material. “I’m not sure if this is the best way to go, or if the best way is to do it in-house, but right now I don’t have the staff to do it in-house,” says Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy. “One of the areas I’m trying to develop is our external communications and community engagement. This is just one of my strategies where I’m trying to engage the community more.”
Right on, we say, with this sort of creative leadership. As media patterns change, community initiatives like this one in Orange County are highly desirable to find new methods of reaching the people who matter most, the residents of the jurisdictions involved.