The American Red Cross, part of the world’s largest humanitarian operation, is a serious operation. It coordinates staff, volunteers, and other agencies and donors to help people in moments of deep crisis, such as after hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.
Of course, the organization also has a sense of humor. Its Twitter feed, for instance, recently included a playlist of summer songs and a cute Vine video of people giving blood in beach gear.
Still, it took some nimble thinking in the middle of the night to turn what could have been a major media headache into a moment of levity that strengthened the brand.
Wendy Harman was the organization’s director of social engagement and social strategy when this particular social moment happened (her current title is director of Red Cross information management and situational awareness in disaster cycle services). In a recent Q&A with MIT Sloan Management Review, Harman describes the incident and how it played out:
“#Gettngslizzerd” happened pretty late at night when my colleague accidentally tweeted from the Red Cross Twitter handle when she meant to tweet from her personal account. She tweeted something about finding a four-pack of Midas Touch beer, which is a Dogfish Head brand, and she added, “when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd.”
She teaches Zumba, and she’d just made a routine to the song Like a G6 where the lyrics are, “When we drink, we do it right, we’re getting slizzered.” And so that was on her brain.
What happened after it went out was that there were thousands and thousands of tweets in response saying, “The Red Cross is drunk.” Lots of people loved it. On the other hand, it was kind of scary for some people, too.