The TSA Insta is hee-lair-eee-ous, and a Black woman runs it
The Transportation Security Administration’s social media director Janis Burl and her team engage with millions of people on the move.
Federal agencies are not usually known for being funny. However, the Transportation Security Administration has managed to find humor in some of the most challenging situations. The bureau’s social media director Janis Burl and her team engage with Americans on the move and people traveling to the country on several platforms — and they do it with style.
A new Q&A with Burl in The New York Times explores how the TSA shares information in a humorous way, especially on Instagram, where the agency’s profile claims they offer “Travel Tips and Dad Joke Hits.”
More than 1 million people follow the TSA’s IG account, and they get comments from tens of thousands of fans.
One recent post was about a blade tool that had to be surrendered. “Your heart may go on, but your saw won’t. It’s not a smooth decision to try and bring this through our security checkpoints,” the caption reads. “Want to be a cut above the rest? Remember this and you’ll be the sharpest one in the shed: Tool blades, like other sharp objects, need to be properly wrapped (this precaution keeps our officers safe) and placed in your checked bag.”
Burl told The Times that she has a six-person team posting about “odd finds, information about what you can and cannot bring through T.S.A., and travel-related answers to questions we may get.”
Her Facebook and Twitter teams respond to questions that are shared on social media with messages to the AskTSA accounts. The team is so responsive, usually replying within two minutes.
Burl said their messages about anything unusual are popular. “For instance,” she said, “we just did a post about a mannequin’s parts being folded up and put onto a plane — who’s going to see that every day?”
The TSA social media team gets tips from travelers, on-the-ground TSA officers, other spokespeople and airport employees. Burl stresses that the account is not all about humor.
“We are constantly looking for an interesting post that’s trending on any platform,” she said, “and we also use photos that our followers share. We spend each morning collaborating to determine what is trending and whether there’s an opportunity for an educational moment.”
Burl maintains that her department’s humor helps people remember what they can and cannot do when traveling via America’s airports. “Whatever the public is talking about, we want to talk about,” she said, “and we want to provide the public with a travel tip in the process.”
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