American Red Cross
Online Communications Guidelines
If your unit is planning to utilize social media tools to convey a message or augment a communication campaign, Communication and Marketing can advise you in developing a Web 2.0 strategy.
Please review the Online Communications Guidelines for personal communications and contact Wendy Harman at (202) 303-4080 or at HarmanW@usa.redcross.org:
There are many Red Cross employees and volunteers contributing to online spaces such as blogs, social networking sites, wikis, forums and photo and video sharing sites.
The following guidelines will help you talk about your involvement with the Red Cross in an open and transparent way. The Red Cross must always uphold the trust of the American people, so it is critical that we tell our story responsibly.
All kinds of social mediamanner of new communication and social networking tools are available to Red Crossersanyone who wants to share insights, express opinions and communicate in a globally distributed conversation. While the American Red Cross recognizes the value of posting personal online content (Web sites, Weblogs, vlogs, podcasts, photos, chat rooms, forums and wikis), it is important that Red Crossers who choose to tell their Red Cross story online understand what is recommended, expected and required.
This policy is built on the work of WOMMA, Dell, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Hill and Knowlton, and Fellowship Church. The Red Cross thanks these organizations for disclosing their policies publicly so that all of us can learn from them.
If you choose to identify yourself as a Red Crosser or discuss matters related to the Red Cross on a personal Web site or blog, many readers will assume you are speaking on behalf of the Red Cross.
In light of this possibility, your communications should be transparent, ethical and accurate. The Red Cross expects employees and volunteers to respect the fundamental principles and core values of the organization. Please abide by the Code of Conduct and these online guidelines.
American Red Cross Online Communications Guidelines
This is a living document and will continue to provide guidance over time. There are lots of great gadgets, software programs and Web 2.0 tools out there for you to use. You can be a powerful voice in telling your stories and those of the American Red Cross.
Make it clear that the views you are expressing are yours alone and not necessarily those of the Red Cross. You may want to look at some examples of typical disclaimer language used on other blogs.
If you discuss the Red Cross, then you have a duty to disclose your role within the organization.
If you are creating an online space for a specific chapter or region, use the entire chapter/region name and lock-up. Social networks function well as smaller communities. Representing your community will increase activity from supporters in your community.
National Headquarters is responsible for creating national Red Cross online presences. Please contact us if you have suggestions for new national online presences.
Even though your blog posts may be primarily made up of personal opinion, do your research well and check that your facts are accurate. Make sure you have permission to post any copyrighted or confidential information (e.g., images) to your blog, and be careful about posting or linking to items that may contain viruses.
Remember that anyone, including your colleagues, may be actively reading what you publish online. In choosing your words and your content, it’s a good practice to imagine that your supervisor and your family are reading everything you post. It’s all about judgment: using your Weblog to bash or embarrass the Red Cross, our clients, our donors or your co-workers isn’t smart or professional. If you have suggestions for improvements at the Red Cross, please state them constructively or better yet, go through the proper channels to air your concerns and share your suggestions.
If you witness illegal, unsafe or unethical conduct by a Red Cross employee or volunteer, we would prefer that you not discuss this in your blog. Instead, for example, you can call the Red Cross Ombudsman (contact details forthcoming) or the Red Cross Concern Connection Line (888-309-9679), which is the 24-hour, confidential and anonymous toll-free line that provides American Red Cross employees, volunteer and members of the public a way to report issues like the following:
Reporting issues like those above in a blog may do more harm than good; worse yet, problems may not get to the attention of the people who can correct them. The Red Cross wants to hear your concerns and has a unit that vigorously follows up and investigates the issues.
If you do blog about the Red Cross, by all means talk about your good work and make meaningful connections with your readers, but you must accomplish this while respecting the privacy and confidentiality of clients and communities. When making decisions about your online content, refer often to the following documents you agreed to when you became an employee or volunteer:
Clients and stakeholders should not be cited or obviously referenced without their approval. Never identify a client or partner by name without permission, and never discuss the confidential details of a client. It is acceptable to discuss general details and to use non-identifying pseudonyms so long as the information provided does not violate any non-disclosure agreements that may be in place with the client or make it easy for someone to identify the client.
Be sensitive to matters of civic pride when discussing specific localities, especially during disasters. You should be careful to protect the dignity of clients by refraining from discussions that reflect negatively on them, even if they are not named.
Show proper respect for the laws governing copyright and fair use of copyrighted material owned by others, including the Red Cross’s own copyright and trademarks. For reference, see the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Guidance.
National headquarters does not intend to “police” the blogging community. Quite the contrary: we want to aggregate all the powerful stories Red Crossers are telling and showcase your individual contribution to the overall missionand gather links in a page at Redcross.org. If you have a blog and you intend to discuss the Red Cross, please contact Wendy Harman at (202) 303-4080 or at HarmanW@usa.redcross.org, for questions, concerns or general guidance on how to engage the blogosphere.
The Internet is all about connecting with links, so if you see something interesting, valuable or relevant, link to it! The more you link to relevant material, the more contacts you will make and the more popular your own blog will become.
We’re lucky; we are part of a humanitarian organization that provides relief to victims of disaster and helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. This means we are likely to have something interesting to add online. Since being interesting is one of the cornerstones of “successful” blogging, we’re off to a good start. That said, writing captivating online content is hard work and a commitment. We suggest if you decide to jump into the blogosphere, do so with a commitment to post regularly and well; link to others and show your unique personality. Make it interesting and have fun!
Please remember that blogging and other social networking activities are personal and should be done on your own time unless you have specifically been assigned to perform an online activity related to your Red Cross responsibilities as an employee or volunteer.
As a Red Crosser, you have already made a commitment to abide by the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Please follow these principles in your online communications. If you choose to share your political or religious stances online, be certain you are representing yourself and not the organization as a whole.