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The Crisis Intelligence Blog

The Makings of a Great Social Media Crisis Plan, part 2: The Red Cross

27 Mar

Red Cross Social Media Crisis PlanKeeping in line with our theme of the week – learning through the great examples of smart brands in a crisis – about a year ago the Red Cross overcame a situation which could have potentially gone viral, damaging the organization’s trusted reputation. Instead, the Red Cross being quick to respond with humor and human appeal, managed to turn the potentially disastrous situation into a campaign that created awareness and encouraged people to donate to their cause.

It was a brilliant play on the Red Cross’s part. One that you can take inspiration from and easily incorporate into your own social media crisis plan. Here’s what went down:

On February 15th 2011, an employee of the Red Cross accidentally tweeted from the wrong account – the @RedCross account instead of her own personal account. The tweet went like this:

“Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”

Considering the nature of the tweet and the non-profit account from which it was sent, this could have very well caused an uproar from Red Cross supporters who could have taken offense and spread their upset within their social graphs – potentially causing a crisis-gone-viral situation.

Fortunately, it never got remotely close to going that far. In fact, there was a viral appeal to the tweet, one that the Red Cross brilliantly turned into a positive opportunity to create awareness for their cause.

Turning a negative into a positive
Instead of being embarrassed and shying away from the innocent mistake, the Red Cross embraced it as a means to humanizing their brand. Approaching the situation with humor and grace, they managed to turn the potentially negative situation into an opportunity. Here’s how they did it:

  • They deleted the tweet – which in most cases would have been a bad move, but they followed this up with a new tweet addressing their actions:
  • The Red Cross quickly published an informative post to their corporate blog explaining the situation, apologizing for it, making light of it and thanking their loyal fans for supporting them through it – drawing attention to their cause and showing how supporters took the situation as a means to take action by either donating blood (“… before drinking a pint of @dogfishbeer and #gettingslizzerd”) or money to the organization.

“… 2 words of caution:

  1. You’ll want to space out giving a pint of blood and drinking a pint of beer for health reasons.
  2. Be careful of Hootsuite!”
  • The employee who made the mistake tweeted from her own account, again explaining the situation with humor and human appeal.

  • They shined the spotlight on some of their truest supporters who came to their defense and took action by donating to their cause.

“… In the meantime we found so many of you to be sympathetic and understanding.  While we’re a 130 year old humanitarian organization, we’re also made of up human beings. Thanks for not only getting that but for turning our faux pas into something good.”

The Red Cross handled this potential crisis beautifully. By showing their human and humorous side, they were able to connect with their supporters and turn a potentially negative and viral situation into a positive opportunity that created both awareness and an appeal that resulted in the brand attaining new supporters and advocates.

This is just another testament of how the right response can turn a social media crisis into a positive brand opportunity.

What did you take away from the Red Cross’ response to this situation, and how will you use it to enrich your own crisis plan? Share your thoughts with me below!

Case Study: In-Depth Analysis of the Paula Deen Crisis


  • The mistakes Paula made that contributed to an approximate $10 million loss of income
  • What Ms. Deen should have done instead – and what she needs to do now
  • How to learn from her mistakes and protect your brand

Click here to learn more


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