[David Strom's Web Informant] How the Red Cross provides social media leadership
david at strom.com
Mon Dec 2 08:24:47 EST 2019
Web Informant, December 2, 2019:
How the Red Cross provides social media leadership
I have been volunteering for the past several months for the American Red
Cross and I came across a series of documents, policies, and training about
how they use social media that I thought I would share with you. I actually
have two very different volunteer jobs with them. First, I work for our
local chapter to drive blood to various hospital blood banks. And I work
for the national office in DC to help produce a monthly webinar that is
attended by hundreds of volunteers and employees involved in their disaster
relief efforts. Note that these thoughts are my own, and not necessarily
that of the Red Cross.
One thing that I am continually impressed with the Red Cross is how well it
partitions and structures the workflows of its volunteers. Even if you
volunteer for a relatively low-level position, such as a front desk
receptionist, there are manuals that guide what you do and when you do it.
This isn’t surprising, given how many of us volunteers there are and how
many volunteers are in key leadership roles directing its critical
operations. Think about that for a moment: many non-profits give their
volunteers the scut work (file these papers that have been lying around
here for months). The Red Cross does the opposite, and it is often hard to
distinguish between volunteers and staffers when you first meet someone.
A good case in point is my wife, who volunteered in their Santa Monica
office years ago after the Katrina floods. Within weeks she was attending
staff meetings and eventually she was hired as the chapter’s development
But let’s talk about social media, and my first point is the Red Cross’
social media guidelines, which take up all of a single page but have lots
of good advice. I thought I would share some of them with you as an example
of what you should create for your own business. During my last webinar,
Megan Weiler, the senior director of Social Media at their DC HQ gave a
presentation on these guidelines and pointed out their six core principles
of being a good social citizen:
- *Be human*, meaning “be your friendly self and use good manners” – too
often we tend to post from frustration or to try to right a wrong.
- *Be engaging*, find others of similar interests and encourage
- *Be accurate*, make sure news items are verified and give credit for
the content you got from someone or somewhere else.
- *Be honest*, meaning if you mess up, fess up and do so quickly.
- *Be considerate*, don’t start flame wars. If you have to disagree with
someone, do it politely. Also, stay focused on the topic at hand.
- *Be safe*. Protect your privacy and “be mindful of what you share
These are all great things to keep in mind when you create your own social
media posts for your company. What I like about this list is that it gives
you the responsibility and boundaries to be successful at delivering
messages using social media. Having written and spoken about these topics
for more than a decade, I found it a very refreshing take. Too often
corporations are heavy-handed about directing their employees’ use of
social media. That heavy hand results in social media misfires or sock
puppetry that doesn’t serve anyone well. (Take as a case in point of the
Twitter account of a certain former White House staffer earlier this month
as an example.)
Some corporations were early advocates of social media like Dell, who
subsequently put together a central social media command center
its corporate offices outside of Austin. That may work well for them (I wrote
this analysis of Dell’s effort back in 2011
<https://blog.strom.com/wp/?p=2314>) and indeed the Red Cross has its own
digital operations nerve center to help with its disaster relief efforts.
But this is just one aspect of what the Red Cross does and managing their
gigantic global volunteer staff at the Red Cross has some other
circumstances and wider implications. They actually understand that social
media engagement is a critical component of their operational DNA and
sharing a volunteer’s personal story is part of their mission.
You might wonder why I am driving blood around town. My reason was simple:
it was an extension of the many years where I donated blood and I liked
being more involved and getting to understand their infrastructure to bring
blood units to those who need them. It isn’t intellectually challenging –
other than keeping track of where in each hospital the blood labs are
located – but it deepens my involvement. (Did you notice how I just shared
my personal story here?) BTW, for those of you that donate blood, thanks
for helping out!
Finally, the Red Cross has a half-hour online training course on social
media basics that are only available to volunteers. The class walks you
through what social listening is all about and how to get you more engaged
in participating in social media as a Red Crosser. The class also makes a
distinction between a volunteer implying they are running an official Red
Cross social media account, versus their saying that they only represent
themselves. That is an important distinction.
goes into further details:
- If you post anything about the Red Cross, make sure you disclose your
role and use your real name. Disclose any vested self-interest and write
about your own expertise.
- Respect your dignity, privacy and confidences. Be sensitive to the
community you are serving, be cautious about sharing information before it
- “Remember if you are online, you are on the record.” This is probably
the most important aspect of social media that many of us tend to forget.
- Understand that your personal social media accounts are your identity.
You should certainly include your corporate affiliation in your online bios
but shouldn’t construct your Twitter handle around them. For example,
create a handle such as @dstrom, rather than @redCrossStrom. Maintain the
balance of what is personal and what is professional. Some companies want
you to operate their social media accounts – while that could work in
certain circumstances, the Red Cross wants you to be you.
Comments always welcome here. <https://blog.strom.com/wp/?p=7465>
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