The Central West Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (CWC-FPRA) is hosting “You Went Viral! Now What Do You Do?” a presentation by Ben Tobias, a public information officer with the Gainesville Police Department. Tobias will speak about the successes and lessons learned during the whirlwind days after a video he posted to social media went viral. The event is November 16, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., at Dattoli Cancer Center, 2803 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Tickets, which include a buffet lunch, are $25 for FPRA members; $35 for guests and for law enforcement officers. To register, visit http://www.cwcfpra.com/event/you-went-viral-now-what-do-you-do/.
In January 2016, Tobias achieved every social media manager’s dream—the viral video. Tobias posted a police dashcam video of Gainesville Police Officer Bobby White’s response to a noise complaint about kids playing in the street. Instead of berating the kids, he joined them in a spirited game of basketball. The original video has more than 200 million organic views to date. The story gained attention again when White returned for a rematch with the kids and brought along NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal. Overnight, White became the “Basketball Cop,” and the hashtag #HoopsNotCrime began to trend. Tobias spent the following weeks managing a deluge of requests for live interviews in the U.S. and abroad as #HoopsNotCrime events went viral. Officer White used this momentum to create the Basketball Cop Foundation, which allows police departments around the country to use basketball as a community relations tool.
“We posted the video because it’s no secret that the national conversation is that the relations between police and citizens have not been great at all,” Tobias told TODAY.com. “We need to focus our efforts on kids committing crimes — not on kids playing basketball and laughing in the Florida sun.”
Ben Tobias joined the Gainesville Police Department in 2005. He became the department’s public information officer in 2012. A month after starting his new position, he handled all media functions for the murder case of UF student Christian Aguilar, a case that garnered international attention. Approximately six weeks later, Tobias gave a press conference that aired live nationwide. Since then, he has managed multiple incidents that have drawn international media attention, including celebrity and athlete arrests. When he’s not wearing his PIO hat, he’s wearing a helicopter flight helmet as one of the backup tactical flight officers for the Joint Aviation Unit, a cooperative effort between the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.
The Central West Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association meets monthly for professional development luncheons and networking. Visit www.cwcfpra.com for the latest details.
The Florida Public Relations Association is dedicated to developing public relations practitioners who, through ethical and standardized practices, enhance the public relations profession in Florida. The organization’s 16 professional and 12 student chapters provide professional development, networking and recognition opportunities for nearly 1,500 members across the state. FPRA is the nation’s oldest public relations organization, established by Lt. Col. John Dillin, APR, CPRC in 1938. For more information, visit www.fpra.org.