Helen Flannery: Marketing New Zealand Police Style

New Zealand Police

Helen Flannery has worked for New Zealand Police for the past five years. At the forefront of developing the NZ Police brand, she was a finalist in the 2020 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards, Marketer of the Year category. She talks to NZ Marketing about marketing’s power to make a difference.


Helen Flannery New Zealand Police
Helen Flannery, Marketing Campaign Manager at New Zealand Police

With an extensive 30 year marketing communications career spanning private, public and not for profit organisations, Helen Flannery is well versed in driving strategic marketing thinking as well as implementing complex marketing projects.

In her time with NZ Police Flannery has undertaken a wide range of projects and campaigns, including ’75 years of Women in Policing’, 2017 World’s Most Entertaining Recruitment Video, 2018 Questions video, the 105 campaign, the National Signage refresh project and most recently the Covid-19 Wellington Paranormal and Creative Genius campaign.

“It’s the perfect role for me as it’s had a huge amount of variety and gives me the opportunity to really make a difference,” Flannery enthuses.

What do you think it takes to be an award-winning marketer? 

Be yourself – bring your own personality and energy to your work. Be passionate about what you do, and be totally committed to achieving results. Be as creative as possible and don’t be afraid to take risks. Be visionary and always be thinking beyond your current campaign. Build strong, trusting and supportive relationships internally and externally by valuing everybody’s contribution and thinking.

What has been your most significant achievement throughout your career? 

Lots of things I feel proud of over my career. But I will have to go with the achievements over the past five years at NZ Police because they are top of mind. The 75 Years of Women in Policing Project 2016: there was a nationwide relay from Cape Reinga and Bluff meeting in the middle with a 1,000-strong parade of Police staff (horses, dogs, old cars).

Creating recruitment campaigns (we are on track to generate 1,800 new Police staff by 2023) starting with the 2017 World’s Most Entertaining Police Recruitment video which went viral overnight and won numerous advertising awards including the Grand Axis Award in 2018. More importantly though it positioned New Zealand Police as an organisation committed to encouraging diversity and resulted in the highest ever number of applications in a month.

Since then a number of campaigns have been developed further segmenting our audiences to ensure we reach our diversity, gender and geographic targets. I’m extremely proud of the campaign last year about the importance of being unique and bringing who you are to work – as reflected in our staff’s tattoos as well as the new virtual reality Experience ‘Virtual Cop’– put yourself in the shoes of being a Police Officer.

I’m also really proud that I was responsible for launching the new Police non-emergency number 105 in May 2019 which was a very significant milestone for NZ Police and for New Zealand. 

More recently I’m incredibly proud of our response to Covid-19 utilising our powerful social media channels (1.7 million followers) to support AoG messaging and to keep Police engagement high. Working with Wrestler and Wellington Paranormal to create our 17 episode Paranormal series and embracing the brilliance of our New Zealand creative industry through the 60 part NZ Creative Genius Series e.g. the Zoom videos, Remix the Kitten, Sock Puppet Police was absolutely a highlight of my career.

How has your marketing style evolved within the five years you’ve been with NZ Police? 

There have been many great recruitment campaigns over the years but our approach from 2017 has been lightly humourous, quirky and quintessentially Kiwi. We’ve used staff in all our campaigns because who could better reflect the kind of people we want to attract than our actual staff.

I have a very clear understanding of Police values and appropriateness of campaigns for Police – so while I push creative boundaries I always have a very strong risk radar running. It’s much easier to get something wrong than it is to get everything right. The last few recruitment campaigns have had more of a serious tone, I actually needed to have been in my job this long to have enough Police EQ to get them right. The Uniqueness campaign was about bringing all of who you are to work, and for this campaign that was reflected in tattoos and the stories behind why our staff got them. In many cases they mark personal loss or celebration. It was about who our staff are beneath the uniform and why their life experience enables them to be empathetic/better cops.

The new Virtual Reality experience Virtual Cop is about feeling what it’s like to be a cop. Getting an experience right that feels really authentic (to both the public and our staff) was hugely challenging but the result has been very rewarding.

I couldn’t have created this five years ago without having spent so much time with cops across the country. Many of my personal observations have been incorporated thus.

What drew you in to helping build the NZ Police brand?

I was initially contracted to plan and implement the 75 years of Women in Policing project. I quickly realised that working for Police was my ideal role because I was able to create and then implement really significant projects and campaigns that were not constrained by a particular style. Police have always been brave marketers, so I considered it a huge opportunity and privilege to further evolve and develop the brand when I was asked to come up with the recruitment campaign in 2017.

What are some of the biggest challenges you as a marketer are currently faced with? 

To be honest, I really love a good challenge so from a marketing perspective I only ever look for opportunities. From a personal perspective I am challenged simply by keeping up with the next thing especially on social, and I am also extremely technically challenged as my younger colleagues will vouch for.

Where do you see your career headed in the next 5-10 years? 

Either taking up other challenges in the Public Sector or working with not for profits. I feel rewarded knowing I am making a contribution to the community in some way. It’s what gets me out of bed every day. For NZ Police that’s about making New Zealand the safest country.


To read the profiles of all the winners from the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2020, get a copy of our Awards Issue, here.

About Mollie Edwards

Mollie Edwards writes across ICG business titles, NZ Marketing, StopPress and The Register.

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