Life after Coronavirus has taken a turn. And so have some professions which have reinvented themselves, sensing an opportunity to alter their archaic image. For instance, the police.
The police in India have been viewed in a stereotypical manner for several decades. That perception is slowly changing on account of the efforts by several police establishments across India to connect with the digital audience. Use of memes, infographics and videos across social and digital platforms have led to increased traction in recent times.
Mumbai Police has been most visible and effective in its messaging here. And it goes back a couple of years before the virus came into our lives. The wit, humour and creativity laced in its creatives have led to a huge following on social media. A recent meme saw a masked Marlon Brando, tweaking a legendary dialogue from the movie Godfather, to drive home the importance of wearing masks.
Titles, posters from classic films and the names of the most famous rock music bands have been creatively used to emphasise the importance of social distancing and the need to stay home. This is a widely adopted technique because of the instant connect and recall.
The same approach was adopted by the Commissionerate Police of Bhubaneswar & Cuttack which decided to use Bollywood’s all-time best known characters and their legendary one-liners with a twist, to convey the importance of staying at home between 7 PM – 7AM
Popular chartbusters are re-worded for maximum impact while creating awareness on the need to respect lockdown rules. Take this instagram post for instance on the official handle of Punjab Police. The attempt here is to warn the citizens, in a lighter vein, from stepping out of their homes during lockdown.
The Bengaluru City police has used other creative ways to engage with the citizens and keep them home besides providing other essential information related to the lockdown. They have also mobilised local celebrities to appeal to the citizens to respect the rules of lockdown and stay safe.
Maharashtra & Pune Police are also active in this space. The Pune Police for instance depicted an upset toddler expressing his displeasure at his parents’ need for stepping out during lockdown due to boredom.
Not all posts are about creating awareness and sharing information. Some police forces have launched activities to keep their citizens interested and engaged while at home. Competitions were organised by the Bhubaneswar & Cuttack Police Commissionerate to keep the citizens enthused at home.
Social communication by the police goes beyond Corona. Mumbai Police has demonstrated the use of memes to convey other social messaging such as teaching boys at home to respect girls, with reference to the recent unfortunate incidents in the National Capital Region.
Some police forces have used social media for an image makeover. Delhi Police had been battling a widespread negative image perception following their action in the student unrest at Jamia and their alleged inaction in the JNU fee-hike protest and the riots that followed the CAA protests. The new police commisioner used the lockdown-induced opportunity to change the perception of his force into a humane and caring unit. Delhi Police #DilKiPolice campaign was launched and his team reflected this new ethos in the way they approached the crisis. From delivering rations, distribution of personal hygiene kits to surprising senior citizens with birthday cakes, they are doing everything to reach out to the Dilliwallah’s dil. Even a quiz to test how well you know your city.
Social media can be very effectively used for disseminating campaigns. Punjab Police’s campaign #MainBhiHarjeetSingh to highlight the bravery of Sub Inspector Harjeet Singh, who was brutally attacked in the line of duty, went viral on social media platforms across the length and breadth of India not just in police circles but across all sections of the society. It was one of the most successful social campaigns in recent times by any government body.
We know nothing succeeds like success. And success can be contagious. Police departments have derived motivation and encouragement from each other in the successful use of social media. It’s a makeover they seem to be enjoying for now.