Recruitment Effort: LAPD uses films to spotlight benefits of joining the force

Despite being among the most famous in the country, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was facing a recruitment problem.

Despite being among the most famous in the country, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was facing a recruitment problem.

Because of past scandals and misperceptions among minorities and women, the LAPD was seen as a less-than-desirable place to work.

The department wanted to shake this negative view by calling attention to the many benefits of joining the force, such as its competitive salaries. To do so, the LAPD worked with Weber Shandwick Public Affairs to create a Hollywood-worthy campaign that would capture the attention of LA media and potential recruits.

Strategy

WS conducted research of target audiences, such as minorities and women, and found that, though each group had preconceived notions about the LAPD, these views could be addressed with a strategic marketing push. The department also could reposition itself as an exciting, diverse group dedicated to protecting the community.

Research also showed that its target age group of 20- to 26-year-olds spent a lot of time online and at movies, so WS sought to incorporate both in the effort. But how?

"We wanted to do something different and bold," says Police Capt. Richard Webb.

"I wanted to come up with something unique enough to rise above the clutter," adds Armando Azarloza, EVP of WS Public Affairs. With that, Azarloza devised an idea for a short film that would depict the life of police officers. WS also realized that a complete overhaul of the LAPD recruitment site could tie it in with the movie theme and attract new users.

After a department casting call, WS forged ahead.

Tactics

WS produced To Protect and to Serve for the LAPD, even getting donations of materials like film, says Webb. The movie, which was split into three episodes approximately three minutes in length, included about 30 officers per episode and showed a range of LAPD careers. WS even got a well-known voice-over artist, who is also an LAPD special reserve officer, to narrate the episodes.

The team worked to get them run as trailers before movies in three Metropolitan Theater locations, which donated screen time. Their quality, in addition to the fact that each looked like an authentic trailer with no sense that they were really recruitment videos until the end, worked in their favor, says Azarloza. Each would run for about four to five weeks before the next hit theaters.

The LAPD and WS kicked off the campaign with a premiere of the film at LAPD headquarters. About 500 people attended, as well as LA media.

WS and the LAPD also partnered with Monster.com on a job page that would drive potential recruits to JoinLAPD.com, which was upgraded to relate to the film. Along with the movie, the site features real-life stories from officers and an "Apply Now" option, a first for the site.

WS also put up billboards across LA, Ventura, and Orange counties, and placed ads in ethnic print titles, as well as on radio.

Results

Though it is too soon to tabulate the number of applications the LAPD will get, the website has seen a 50% increase in traffic, averaging about 750,000 hits per month. "We're proud of that," says Azarloza. "A 50% increase is a significant number."

The Monster.com posting averages about 8,000 hits per month. The effort also garnered coverage from the Los Angeles Daily News and the LA Times.

"This campaign was a revolutionary step toward bringing recruitment to another level," says Azarloza.

Future

The LAPD and WS will continue working together on the recruitment push. "I think we'll probably end up making more vignettes and reinvigorate the campaign," says Webb.

In February, the trailers will reach 60 screens in nine theaters on a paid basis. Azarloza adds that a new aspect in consideration is a reality series in which officers vie for a spot on one of the LAPD's elite units.

PR team: Weber Shandwick Public Affairs (Los Angeles) and the Los Angeles Police Department

Campaign: LAPD: A Rewarding Career

Time frame: November 4, 2004, to present (ongoing)

Budget: $1 million

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