The Source


Communicating for Community Service: Red Cross PIO


Authored by: Crystal Warner

OCPRSA, Co-Chair Communications

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.”

Remember when you were little and dreamed about changing the world? Me too.

Have I profoundly changed someone’s life in such a way that they could never repay me? Not yet. But within just a couple months, I’m well on my way…

It’s hard to believe that the summer is coming to an end because it seems like just yesterday that I met the OC Red Cross Disaster Public Affairs team at OC PRSA’s Annual Summer Media Mixer. (What better place to recruit Public Information Officers than a mixer with OC’s top PR professionals!)

As soon as I learned about Red Cross Public Information Officers (PIO’s), I jumped on the training opportunities immediately. Within a few short weeks I had completed the required training and this past weekend I completed my first on-call volunteer PIO 24/7 shift. Now that’s immediacy. It only took me half a summer to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. I just had to set my mind to do it. We live in a culture of instant gratification, why not immediate volunteerism? Why wait to make a difference? You never know when disaster will strike and you never know whose life you might change by being ready to help.

Unfortunately, sometimes it takes unthinkable disasters for people to put their lives into perspective. Ask someone who has just lost everything in a disaster what the most important thing in the world is to them at that very moment and you’ll probably reevaluate what’s most important in your life as well. I have profound empathy and deep compassion for people who have been affected by disasters in their lives. Helping them in any way that I can during their time of need just seems like the least I can do.

Serving as a representative of the American Red Cross allows me to use, hone and build upon my public relations and communications skills through the numerous opportunities to collaborate with the media via traditional and social media channels, be an on-camera or quotable media spokesperson, as well as create and run strategic campaigns to increase awareness of the Red Cross and its various programs to the media and the community in times of disaster and throughout the year.

As someone who highly values individualism and celebrating one’s differences, I wanted to volunteer my time to a non-profit organization where I could utilize my own unique set of skills (marketing communications) and passions (disaster relief) to help the community in the best way that I can and in a way that no one else can. Becoming a Red Cross PIO was the perfect fit for me.

PR professionals, this is your Call-to-Action. Volunteer your skills, strengths and experiences to help the community. Be an engaged professional. Everyone is qualified to volunteer. Anyone can make an impact. Yes, you (I mean you, the one reading this blog post) really can make a difference. Don’t wait. Act now.

September is National Preparedness Month. What better time to get involved?

About American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or @RedCross on Twitter.

About American Red Cross PIO’s:
American Red Cross Public Information Officers (PIO’s) serve as a representative to the community and the media for the dissemination of critical information to promote Red Cross programs and brand in times of disaster and throughout the year. PIO’s create materials such as media alerts, press releases and content for social media, websites, newsletters and marketing materials. For more information, please contact Meredith Mills or Kelvin Tyler. UPCOMING PIO TRAINING: Tuesday, September 23rd (please RSVP by September 18th).


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