Public sector Christmas: contrasting police approaches to promoting safety

Major differences in the ways in which police comms teams are tackling seasonal campaigns are reflected in the sheer diversity of comms activities running over the coming weeks.

Police force campaigns across the country are taking different approaches to Christmas messaging
Police force campaigns across the country are taking different approaches to Christmas messaging

Approaches range from giving a platform to a grieving mother whose teenage daughter was killed by a drunk driver, to an advent calendar on social media.

Some have opted for a simple play on words to promote their campaigns, while others have chosen to exploit the popularity of well-known Christmas carols and poems.

Here PRWeek takes a look at some of the new festive campaigns underway from police forces across the country seeking to raise awareness of everything from drink driving to burglary.

South Wales Police

Have a cracking Christmas

Christmas cracker imagery gives a festive flavour to this year’s crime-prevention campaign from South Wales Police.

Christmas is a unique comms challenge for policing, involving various safety and crime-prevention messages for a vast target audience and conveying hard-hitting messages without scaremongering, according to the force’s comms team.

It has developed a bilingual campaign which uses Christmas cracker jokes as a way of communicating short, simple messages such as "Having gifts stolen… it’s no joke."

Looking out for people who may be vulnerable is also a key message, with simple photography used to emphasise the point.

Other key messages include not leaving presents on display, not posting on social media that you are going away, and not drinking and driving.

The main campaign resource is a crime-prevention booklet that is being promoted by police officers locally.

The hashtag #CrackingDownOnCrime is also being used to raises awareness of the campaign on social media.

Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police


Daily animations on an advent theme this month are being used to promote key messages such as reminding people that there will be more police on duty over the Christmas period, and offering crime-prevention advice.

Advice is being given on areas including violent crime, personal safety and domestic violence.

People are being urged to use the 101 number to contact police and only use the 999 number in a real emergency.

While these are meant to reassure the biggest audience – the general public – they are also intended as a deterrent to potential offenders. Police officers and staff are also being targeted, as are individuals who can help promote the campaign, as well as the media.

The forces' Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts are the main channels being used to promote the campaign.

Hampshire Constabulary

Operation Holly

In a joint campaign with Thames Valley Police, the force is focusing on the real-life impact of drink-driving.

Among the campaign resources is a powerful film in which the mother of a schoolgirl killed by a drunk driver talks of her torment and is visibly distressed throughout.

Rebecca Marchant, from Leatherhead, Surrey, was just 15 when she was killed by a drunk driver in 2016. Her mother Karen comments: "If you make a decision to drink and drive it’s never an accident, it’s like playing a game of Russian roulette… it absolutely devastates lives."

In the film, she says that when she discovered her daughter had been killed, "my entire world came crashing down around my ears". Now, "she’s the first person I think of when I wake up in the morning, she’s the last person I think of when I go to sleep at night".

The film and other campaign resources are being promoted using the hashtag #ItsNotWorthTheRisk.

That drink- and drug-driving devastates lives, and is not worth the risk, is among the key messages of the campaign, which also calls on people to report those who they suspect of breaking the law.

The road-safety campaign features the four factors - dubbed 'the fatal four' – which most contribute to fatal road accidents in the region.

These include not wearing a seatbelt; driving while under the influence of drink or drugs; speeding; and using hand-held mobile phones.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary

A Cambs Christmas Carol

The force has changed its logo on Twitter to include a santa hat and is exploiting popular Christmas carols and poems to highlight safety messaging over the festive period.

In one image, people are urged to report any concerns they may have about vulnerable children.

Another picture used in the campaign, running on Facebook and Twitter, reminds people that burglars don’t take a break during Christmas, so they should make sure that valuables are not left out on view.

In addition to the images, videos will be released on social media later this month – with safety messages and advice set to the music of well-known carols such as Once in Royal David's City and While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night.

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