Surendra Lamba gives a peek into how Punjab Police Social Media Cell functions during a crisis

Punjab Police social media

With three times more queries to tackle and the need to find innovative ways to communicate, Punjab Police has stepped up its social media strategy. Surendra Lamba, Head, Punjab Police Social Media Cell gives an inside view.

With COVID-19 crisis taking over lives across the globe, the jobs of law enforcers have become trickier just like those of health workers. There is a serious need to communicate in mostly intangible ways to ensure tangible damage remains to minimal.

For Punjab Police, this meant stepping up their presence across social media platforms, in a bid to reach as many people as possible. Most of these efforts have been to communicate with the youth. Earlier this month, Punjab police was in the news for taking a Bollywood style approach on social media to convey the message social distancing.

Usually, about 40 police personnel across the state are involved in handling queries and sorting virtual communication. However, with the increase in workload due to COVID-19, the number has been raised to about 80-85. This includes about 14 personnel working round the clock in the headquarters and about 60 others across the state.

Surendra Lamba, Head, Punjab Police Social Media Cell tells us about the unprecedented nature of the situation at hand and how they cannot look at it from the usual garb of law and order. “Currently the situation is a crisis situation. We don’t have to threaten people, we have to convince them. We need to talk to them in a way that they are receptive to it,” he explains.

The team is divided in such a way that there are at least two personnel for each district. The main state police handles are also being used to highlight the work of various city and district police forces under it. For creatives and campaigns, external firms have been roped in.

Punjab Police has taken to TikTok and Sharechat to put across infotainment content around COVID-19 precautions. They have also been putting up bright memes, pop culture references and memes across platforms. Do cops have to be extra cautious of the blurry lines between information and entertainment?

Also Read: Armed with social media Indian Police tackles lockdown challenges

The fact that they have distinguished the channels of communication helps. While Twitter and Facebook are meant for more information-oriented communication with entertainment sprinkled on to expand its reach among slightly older demographics, TikTok and ShareChat are being used to talk to teens and slightly older youngsters. While there is an optimisation of content as per platform, most of it is duplicated across for amplification.

On Twitter, Punjab Police mainly communicates via the official state police handle and that of Director General of Police, Punjab Police. The communication pattern is similar to that of the Mumbai Police where the team handle is used to put across campaigns and broad-spectrum information, while the police chief handle is reserved for more official communication like issuing statements and specific messaging.

“Currently it is not possible to hold regular press conferences and so we are using social media, especially Twitter to release official statements,” Lamba tells us how social media is being used to communicate with the people of the state as well as media persons. Social media lives are also helping police personnel expand the scope of engagement with citizens.

Apart from information dissemination, police personnel are also redressing issues and monitoring for sources of misinformation. According to Lamba, there has been a three times hike in the number of queries Punjab Police receives, prompting them to step up the strength of their social media team.

Broadly, there are two types of misinformation, Punjab Police is currently battling in the virtual space. These include manipulation of events and correct information to cause panic and deliberately sharing information that can cause law and order situations in the state.

“People should be very careful in believing what they read, even more so if they are forwarding it,” says Lamba, summing up their efforts and appeal to people at large.

Social media footprint

  • Facebook: 435K likes
  • Twitter: 61.9K followers
  • Instagram: 517 followers
  • TikTok: 128.7K followers
  • Sharechat: 505 followers

Use of social media platforms

  • Twitter: Mature and intellectual audiences, media persons
  • TikTok and Sharechat: Communicate with youngsters via entertainment
  • Facebook: Documenting work, sharing information
  • Instagram: Attempt to expand presence in a bid to explore all options