The Heart of Storytelling: The American Red Cross Lets Real People Tell Their Stories

Co.Create, Fast Company (New York, NY), December 18, 2012


With its new Storytellers campaign, The American Red Cross gives a voice–and a camera–to the people who have been helped by the organization.

A New Yorker whose home was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, a Michigan teenager whose Red Cross CPR training helped him save a man’s life, an Oklahoma family who lost their home in a tornado. These are just a few of the people featured in a powerful new campaign from The American Red Cross.

What makes the new Storytellers documentary-style campaign unique is that there was no script and no director. The American Red Cross enlisted 300 storytellers–people who were helped by the Red Cross–to tell their story in their own words and to film themselves while doing so. The idea was inspired by the documentary “Life in a Day.”

The Red Cross enlisted agency BBDO New York to develop an advertising concept that would convey this message. It immediately became clear that the most effective way to educate people about the mission of The Red Cross was to let the people who have been helped the most by the organization speak for themselves.

“Every time we started to talk about an ad campaign, we worried that it felt a little contrived or boastful,” explains Linda Honan, senior creative director at BBDO New York. “We found that the purest way to push the story out was to have the people whose lives have been touched tell their story. It was about stepping aside and giving people the tools to share their story.”

“The process of storytelling is part of the service the Red Cross provides,” explains Honan. “Talking about the things you’ve been through is cathartic, aiding in the healing process. When you’ve lived through such trauma, the Red Cross brings hope.”

The American Red Cross is asking people to share their personal stories at its website.


Subjects Covered: business, healing, personal storytelling

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