Red Cross Puts Humor to Work for Reputation Management

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    Not taking yourself too seriously is a boon to reputation

    The Onion is well known for being utterly satirical, yet many organizations who find themselves the focus of a joke are unable to see it as anything but a threat. Earlier this month the American Red Cross was the target of an Onion article titled, “Nation’s Blakes Cruise Easily Through Lifeguard Training”, which took a shot at “typical” lifeguard names. Here’s a quote:

    According to incoming reports from beaches and pools across the country this week, lifeguard tryouts were once again a breeze for the nation’s Blakes. “According to our figures, Blakes from coast to coast have secured more than half of all available lifeguarding jobs, cruising through fitness, CPR, and swimming trials with ease,” American Red Cross president Gail McGovern said, adding that the lifeguard staffs at over 200 municipal pools, seashores, and water parks would be composed entirely of Blakes this summer. “And in addition to Blakes, the country’s Bryces, Gavins, and Rykers also had no trouble passing the various tests. Although, as usual, not a single Saul was offered a position.”

    Instead of huffing and puffing with indignation, the Red Cross made the absolute best move possible, embracing the attention drawn by the silly article and inserting a call to action that helps them to reach their goals as an organization, all with a simple Facebook post:

    The Onion Red Cross post pic

    While this situation was never a crisis, the wrong response could absolutely have turned it into one.

    Next time someone takes a jab at you, do what the Red Cross did and consider not only whether it really matters, but also how you can turn it to your advantage. You may be surprised just how much mileage you can get out of showing your human side and giving your stakeholders a bit of a laugh.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]