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A public safety official asked for my opinion in a case where he had shared a picture of a water main break – a public event and received some negative feedback on the situation. Below is a summary and analysis of the situation, followed by recommendations. This is published here with his consent.
Summary of situation:
One public official posted video of a water main break – a public event – to his Facebook wall to provide information to the public and keep people informed.
Another public official requested the first public official not publish future videos of similar events in the future.
Analysis of the situation:
There could be several reasons why somebody wouldn’t want videos related to themselves or their organization posted:
Loss of control: It used to be much easier to control what was publicized and what wasn’t. Being able to control what’s published – as impossible as that is to do – can give people, especially if they are used the old way of messaging, a sense of control.
The fear of looking bad. Honestly, not everything we do is positive. Even negative stories can help us build connections. Negative publicity isn’t bad in itself. It’s how we respond to it.
Other. There might be other reasons why this person wouldn’t want this to be published. It might be worth asking.
In general, I believe the sharing of valuable, informational and/or educational information is very valuable. It builds trust with audiences, which includes a town’s residents. When information is shared people can be informed and in the know.
At times we have to weigh how the publishing of information will affect offline relationships. For example, is it worth to damage a relationship over the publication of public video? Your audience might think so. You may or may not disagree.
As a final note, a video of a water main break hardly reflects negatively on anyone. They seem to happen and then get fixed. I also didn’t see any negative outcry in this case from the public.