Red Cross boosts social media use in times of trouble

As Hurricane Irene began to work its way up the East Coast in August, the American Red Cross launched an SMT with CEO Gail McGovern and conducted interviews from the Disaster Operations Center in Washington.

Organization: American Red Cross
Leadership team size: 44
What's new: Placing a greater emphasis on social media functions when disaster strikes

As Hurricane Irene began to work its way up the East Coast in August, the American Red Cross launched an SMT with CEO Gail McGovern and conducted interviews from the Disaster Operations Center in Washington. From 6am to 10am that Saturday morning, she did nearly 30 broadcast interviews, said Roger Lowe, SVP of communications.

"Over the weekend, staff came in from all of the various groups in the department to work on the communications effort - press releases, RedCross.org content, fielding press calls, doing interviews, and putting an FAQ on a special landing page on our website with key questions," Lowe says. "We also had 'virtual volunteers' across the US take shifts helping monitor social media and query response."

During the last five years, the in-house comms team was reduced by nearly 40% as part of a major budget-cutting effort by the Red Cross, which faced a $209 million deficit. However, due to an increase in the number of people who use social media in disastrous times over the last two years, Lowe says, the department is leveraging the function.

The organization has recently added to its social media team and is set to launch a redesigned Intranet for its employees and volunteers in mid-2012.

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