Red Cross pegs press as its new blood in PR

WASHINGTON: The American Red Cross is sending journalists back to

school.



Blood 101, a new PR initiative, is designed to educate reporters about

what the Red Cross does in an effort to increase blood donations.



"We've fallen into a rut with our PR," said Bill Blaul, SVP of

communications and marketing for the Red Cross. "Whenever the Red Cross

is in the news, it's another 'the Red Cross is having a blood shortage'

story. We wanted to give the media a fresh perspective and teach them

about why we have trouble collecting blood and why our prices have gone

up."



Blaul was referring to soaring prices since the FDA's recent ban of

blood donors who had spent more than six months in Europe between 1980

and 1996.



Blood 101 is a half-day class in which PR communicators walk journalists

through the blood-giving process, from testing to showing how blood is

packaged and shipped. The first class was held in Philadelphia.

Reporters from USA Today and CNN attended and later filed favorable

stories about the problems the Red Cross is facing. The class will roll

out to 36 other regions in due course.



The regional headquarters will work with the Red Cross in Washington, DC

to come up with a list of the top-ten healthcare reporters in their

respective areas, and then invite them to attend Blood 101 seminars.



"The Red Cross used to spend most of its time direct mailing," said

Blaul, "but we have been learning how to handle the media and certain

problems, such as the increase in the cost of blood, and dealing with

the mad-cow scare."



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