CAMPAIGNS: Judge and Jury - Red Cross keeps donations high, but its head low in Turkey quake

Over half a million pounds was raised for the Turkish Earthquake Appeal largely on the brand strength of the British Red Cross, says Jonathan Hopkins, director of The Rowland Company

Over half a million pounds was raised for the Turkish Earthquake

Appeal largely on the brand strength of the British Red Cross, says

Jonathan Hopkins, director of The Rowland Company



The horrors of the earthquake in Turkey were exhaustively reported,

bringing home the enormity of the human disaster. But what messages did

the Red Cross succeed in getting across to the UK public? Nothing of

significance was discernible from the media coverage. Yet over pounds

500,000 was raised by the British Red Cross for relief funds.



Despair was the overarching emotion from which much support for relief

work came. But impotence was the feeling in the face of deaths on such a

massive scale. How did the Red Cross fare in that context?



Often without specific acknowledgement by journalists, the statistics

and supporting material on the ground can be traced back to the Red

Cross - with teams from Belgium, Germany, Slovenia, as well as Greece,

where its sister organisation the Red Crescent led the support to the

Turkish disaster area.



The British Red Cross was keen to convey the message that in the first

hours of a disaster, it is the local branch of the society, in this case

the Turkish Red Crescent, which deals with the situation quickly and on

the ground. Although the international nature of the charity came

through, the message that the British Red Cross was more useful in

raising money to cope with the aftermath was not as clear as it could

have been.



But when the British Red Cross did start raising funds, the message was

much clearer.



While its main appeal had been through its tie-in with the Independent

newspaper, the name of the Red Cross and addition of a hotline appeal

number was seen by other newspapers as carrying sufficient weight and

brand identity not to require supporting narrative for the appeal as

part of the story-line.



A succinct report in the Independent on 29 August, some ten days after

the earthquake, provided the first tangible account of practical support

from the British Red Cross. This cited extreme heat, heavy rain and the

misery of families forced by the destruction of their homes to live in

tents, and that the Red Cross was using the money to provide emergency

supplies, such as blankets, tents and medicine.



The British Red Cross certainly raised significant funds for relief

work, but we gained little insight into its work or values. Rather, we

were left with the sense that we should simply donate money and trust

the Red Cross to get on with the job. It is a testament to the charity’s

standing in the public eye that we continue to respect the Red Cross

even when we are not too sure of the details of its work.



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