Public perceptions of RC

March 3, 2010
By Kelly_Nichols

I became a friend of the American Red Cross on Facebook a few days before the earthquake in Chile. Naturally, they posted about the earthquake the morning after it happened. While the great majority of the comments were positive, there were some detractors. Below is a (highly) edited selection of those comments. Martine Seraphin was one of the first to comment and opens up with guns blazing. Peggy Swanton chimes in to the same tune (although mistakes Cuba for Haiti – always good to make fundamental factual mistakes when flaming). By this time Robin LaFountain Wall, an apparently staunch RC advocate, goes ballistic enough to type the balance of her comments IN ALL CAPS.

This seems related to an issue George mentioned to me the other day. He said that during his reservist training volunteers were getting upset about the lack of answers that the trainers were providing. The trainers were apparently acting in a less than diplomatic fashion. (My words – George, if I’m wrong, please correct me.) We all know that typing in all caps is an aggressive act in virtual space. While Robin’s heart may be in the right place, SHOUTING AT PEOPLE WHO ARE PRONE TO DISTRUST doesn’t help the situation. Similarly, patronizing is not the best way to handle volunteers.

This is undoubtedly a very difficult problem to deal with, but perhaps some kind of interpersonal management training could help.

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One Response to “ Public perceptions of RC ”

  1. Nigel_Snoad on March 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    It’s often hard to imagine how aggressive the internet commentary can be on what are pretty innocent notifications and examples. The entire issue of transparency is a huge one for all humanitarian organizations, and convincingly communicating what’s been done with donations is a critical task that will unfortunately never leave every rabid critic satisfied. I wonder in this case whether part of making the response better is to enable people to link to a FAQ/report that effectively says “this is how we spend and audit our spending” with examples for past emergencies.

    Of course all that info is probably there already, it’s just an effort to search, copy, past. Another thing that relates to the whole “communicating the mission” piece.