In the great tradition of brand-promoted hashtags, #myNYPD goes disastrously wrong

As we’ve written about before, police departments are very active in social media, with many of them being very successful.  And, with the largest police force in the United States, you can bet that the New York Police Department has an active twitter account.

Two days ago, the NYPD sent out this tweet:

Some people did participate and sent out nice pictures of themselves with officers, which the NYPD promptly retweeted.  Others…not so much:

Also interesting is that the hashtag has also spread to other cities, including #myLAPD and #myTPD (which seems to be a number of different police departments).

The story, of course, has made national news.

Naturally, this disaster went all the way up the police food chain, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton had to comment on the story:

Most of the pictures I looked at, they’re old news.  They’ve been out there for a long time…Often times police activities are lawful, but look awful.

This is yet another example of what frequently happens when somewhat controversial brand reaches out to the Twittersphere for input.  We’ve covered this before, in fact.  For example, J.P. Morgan once tried to offer investment advice under #AskJPM – that was a disaster.  Political parties have failed here as well – the @GOP once asked for feedback, and the results were predictably hilarious.  McDonald’s once tried doing this with the promoted hashtag #McDStories, but that got turned into a discussion about nasty food and food poisoning.  So, should more controversial brands, and government officials, not leave such open ended opportunities for feedback?  Yes.  Exactly. Townhalls are one thing – you usually get at least a few real questions that you can run with.  And responding to criticism, one on one, is a very different story.  But open ended requests for input are a bad idea if you are at a certain level of visibility, and thus controversy.  Local elected officials can probably pull such a maneuver off, though the feedback likely won’t be large in number anyway.  But, the higher the political ladder you climb, the harder it becomes to do an event like this without risking serious negative feedback.

What do you think?  Is there a way for big brands or government groups to pull off promotions like this?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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