What do you get when you combine the biggest sporting event of 2017, the smallest ever host city, 170,000 visitors, a TV audience of 200 million and some of the most famous names in football? The biggest policing operation South Wales Police has ever undertaken - the UEFA Champions League Final 2017.
by Carly Yeates
Here at South Wales Police, we are very used to and confident in our ability to police large-scale events. The NATO Summit, Olympics, Rugby World Cup, Six Nations matches, FA Cup finals, royal visits, pop concerts – you name it and South Wales has hosted it.
However, this event was different from any of the others we had done before. There were a number of issues; the amount of fans both with tickets and without expected to descend on the city concerns over whether our transport infrastructure could cope, the impact on businesses and residents, the attendance of VIPs, the limited number of hotels and the most significant issue for us, the increased terror threat.
We were all shocked by the terrible terror attacks in London and Manchester in the weeks before the event. A week before the finals, the terror threat was increased to critical and armed officers were deployed across the UK – inevitably, our policing plan was reviewed but also our communication plan. The focus on safety and security was magnified and people were looking to us to provide advice, guidance and reassurance.
Now for the plan. We utilised the usual channels, digital, internal and external comms and decided the best approach for each. As with any large-scale event, a good comms plan is crucial.
We knew that social media would be our biggest asset, so we decided to set up a new Twitter account dedicated to the event. We toyed with idea of using one of our already established accounts but came to the conclusion that a new account would work well. The audience we were trying to reach was very specific and we didn’t want the messaging to get lost in the other campaigns, events and business as usual that would still be going on. This decision proved invaluable in light of the increased threat level as people turned to us as a trusted source of information.
The most important thing for us was to get the tone right. Policing an event of this nature is a huge security operation, in which we are need to ensure the safety and security of over 170,000 people in a time of heightened security combined with embracing the atmosphere and spirit that this iconic event brought to Cardiff.
We got tweets translated to Italian and Spanish, shared partner agencies’ tweets and consistently pushed security and safety messaging, quickly turning around video messages from senior officers to address issues as they emerged.
We had already embraced the visible presence of armed officers on social media the week before and our followers responded well to it, so we decide to continue with the same approach. One of our team was out in Cardiff from the day the festival opened; his role was to capture what our officers do best, community engagement.
Our officers are brilliant, they worked long shifts had rest days cancelled, dealt with challenging situations on a daily basis but when it came to community engagement they nailed it. Always happy to pose for a selfie or let someone try on their helmet. I can only imagine after 12 hours on your feet, in uniform, in the heat, that can probably become a little tiresome but they took pictures, gave high fives, played football with excited kids, all with smiles on their faces – and the comms team were there to capture it all.
Overall we think from a comms team perspective, we did ourselves proud. It was hard work, long days but we had a plan and great team of people around us. Our social media posts were shared far and wide – our dedicated Twitter account had 1000 followers, we sent 715 tweets with 2.9k likes, 2k retweets and 1.2 million impressions, Facebook posts had likes of over 4k with a reach of over 350k and our two videos from our ACC had almost 45k views - all over the course of the event.
Our officers themselves, retweeted and shared all of the content and there was a real feel good factor internally. We hope the public enjoyed what we did as much as we enjoyed bringing it to them.
Carly Yeates is Digital Lead, Operation Draig Goch, South Wales Police
image via South Wales Police