Greater Manchester Police @gmpolice Twitter gaffe and apology

@gmpolice TwitterGreater Manchester Police is one of the public sector organisations that is leading the way in its use of social media. But, if you’re at the forefront of new innovations it’s inevitable that you’ll make the occasional mistake. And that is what happened to Greater Manchester Police this morning.

For the last few day it has been tweeting out the convictions and sentences for those involved in rioting and looting. On the whole this has been positively received by most people, with some questioning why it was revealing addresses and dates of birth. But the @gmpolice Twitter account was very quick to explain why – it is to prevent people being mixed up with those of the same name.

This morning however, the @gmpolice crossed the line from reporting what it is doing to commenting on sentencing policy. This is most definitely beyond the remit of public sector officers who are there to advise on and implement policy, not create it and set it.

@gmpolice Mum-of-two, not involved in disorder, jailed for five months for accepting shorts looted from shop. There are no excuses!

The @GMpolice account was quick to react and almost immediately issued a public apology, which was exactly the right thing to do. However, I do believe strongly it made a mistake by deleting the offending tweet. By doing so it didn’t prevent it being seen as many people, including journalists (including Jane Merrick, political editor of the Independent on Sunday), had already retweeted it – some simply to put it on record and show what @GMpolice had done.

@gmpolice Apologies for any offence caused from last tweet. Comment was not directed at individual person.

@gmpolice Thanks to all for feedback messages - all your comments have been noted. You are right, it is not our place to comment on sentences.

One of those jumping quickly into question @gmpolice was Bristol MP Kerry McCarthy.

It will be interesting to see if this breaks out of being a little Twitter skirmish and online reputation issue into being a mainstream media story and wider reputation management and public relations issue.

Let’s hope this doesn’t deter @gmpolice from continuing to find new ways to use social media to serve the public.

About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.

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