The first episode of the BBC’s new drama about the probation service, Public Enemies, airs tonight.
Last week I blogged about how this rare prime time exposure provides probation trusts with a great opportunity to communicate to the general public exactly what they do. We know from the trailer that the storyline – Probation Officer, (Anna Friel), supervises released murderer (Daniel Mays) and risks her career to help him prove his innocence – is unlikely to be troubled by too much attention to detail on the realities of the criminal justice system.
Nevertheless, I argued that such a high profile TV show gave probation trusts and their PR workers the chance to inform the general public about what the probation service does. That trusts do a lot more than supervise community payback and that the heart of their work is about protecting the public and managing risk – one of the main themes of Public Enemies:
A number of trusts have taken up the challenge. One of the first was Staffordshire and West Midlands which put out a press release last Friday 30 December which it posted on its website and Facebook Page and publicised via Twitter (@SWMProbation). The press release piggybacks on the TV show to describe the work of the probation service and its effectiveness; making it clear in the process that the public perception of probation officers as being “soft on criminals” is no longer accurate – if it ever was.
I have argued before about the importance of probation trusts publicising their effectiveness at a time when they are facing competition from multi-national companies who have marketing and PR departments with big budgets. I have advocated that social media can be the way forward because of its low cost and because probation trusts have thousands of human interest stories about reformed offenders which is just the sort of content that attracts online audiences.
Although I have discussed the virtues of blogging and using Facebook and Twitter, I have not yet talked about content curation. As the amount of content online grows exponentially, there is a growing need for this content to be curated – organised, filtered and intelligently presented. A number of social media gurus, such as Beth Kanter (@kanter) are focusing increasingly on best practice in content curation. She argues that those organisations which do not merely repeat and regurgitate online information, but distill it into useful and thoughtful comment will attract – and, more critically, retain – a loyal audience.
There are a number of new curation tools available, two of the most popular are Paper.li which is an automated approach to finding content on a specific subject or Scoop.it! which also allows you to clip articles of your choice into an online publication. My preference is Scoop.it! because it allows for a more bespoke, thoughtful approach and I like the way the resulting online magazine is presented.
As my own contribution to publicising the work of the probation service, I created a “Probation in Action” magazine which features some of the best promotional work undertaken by a range of probation trusts and key organisations such as the Probation Association, the Probation Chiefs Association, The Academy for Justice Commissioning and the Ministry of Justice’s interactive guide to the probation service which lets interested members of the public play the role of probation officers, interviewing “offenders” and making recommendations to the court.
You can read Probation In Action here and see some of the lead stories below: