Canadian Blood Services Gets Under Your Skin for the Greater Good

Dianne McBride    November 7, 2015

low blood symbol

Canadian Blood Services media campaign symbol that indicates a greater need for blood donations in the community.

Organization:  Canadian Blood Services
Industry:  Not for Profit, Health and Medical
Contact(s): Dianne McBride, 
Web references:, Canadian Blood Services,  Facebook,, Twitter, Vimeo, Youtube,,

Talk about a red hot topic. Canadian Blood Services has a multi-storied past, including the 1980’s blood scandal and the more recent connection to the pay for plasma venture in Ontario not to mention the current strike action by Charlottetown, PEI nurses. What can social media do mend these fences?

Canadian Blood Services has not always had this name.  In order to put the past behind, the name was changed from Canadian Red Cross in 1998. History will never be the same for the innocent 2000 Canadians who were infected with HIV or Hep C because of less than stringent rules for donors at the time, when blood was sourced in the U.S. from highly suspect sources. A play called ‘Tainted’ was produced in 2013 to ensure that the error was not repeated.

 ‘Tainted”, a play performed in 2013 in Toronto, was  about three brothers who all developed HIV and hepatitis C after being infected by donated blood. 

From the CBS website it states, ” September 27, 2013 (CANADA) – On November 26, 1997, Justice Horace Krever tabled a report to the federal government that had 28 recommendations. One of Krever’s key recommendations was the creation of a new national blood authority. We assumed full responsibility for the operation of the blood supply on September 28th, 1998. At that time, we took over a system that was broken, in a time when trust from Canadians was at an all-time low.”

Low indeed – Canadian Blood Services had a very long way to go and needed to fix what was seriously smashed to smithereens. This is where I enter the picture. I have fairly close connection to this subject as I’ve donated blood over 50 times. Motivation was simple. When 9/11 occurred, there just was so much diabolically bad in the world that I somehow wanted to create some bit of good. Donating blood doesn’t take much volunteer time, is uniquely critical to recipients and can be done repeatedly, no more often than once every 2 months. I was willing to give Canadian Blood Services a second chance.

Example of a Blood Donor Card

I’m only a drop in the bucket when it comes to donating. Some have given many, many more times, including Jim Abrams, who just completed 850 donations. Unfortunately, CBS neglected to include in the original Facebook post the fact that a good number of those were plasma donations. Plasma donations are very different from blood donations and a person can donate plasma as often as weekly. By not including this little known fact in the original post on Facebook(or simply correcting it very quickly) lots of negative posts were placed because plasma donations can count as ‘donations’ and be included in the donor’s total, skewing the typical tally of 6 donations annually.

Jim Abrams donates

Jim Abrams hitting the 850th donation milestone.

Just for the record, I did indeed donate blood, not plasma. For those of you that are still feeling lightheaded at the prospect of a needle in your arm, it’s really not a big deal. And, yes, the rumour is not urban legend, it is indeed true – you do get cookies after.

The numbers are staggering in terms of donations, obviously, but below is indicated what is required every day for surgeries and emergencies. It really drives it all home when you consider how many people you know personally that can benefit from blood donations.

Number of units of blood required for surgery.

Number of units of blood required for surgery and health issues.

So, it’s very clear that the need will continue to grow, and that CBS has to get in front of people, connect and maintain that relationship in order to fulfill the rising need for blood.

If CBS ‘s Facebook page is problematic, how’s their Twitter account, @itsinyoutogive? In this case, it looks like they have regular tweets, varied content including graphics, and photos.  These can be made more effective by being geared to Millennials,  who are, after all the future of Canada and who are keen to volunteer for worthy causes. By tapping into an early habit of donating with this age group, there is a higher probability of keeping the routine.  Baby Boomers are retiring and have the potential to maintain a regular donation schedule.  Ethnic groups, whether social clubs or churches are also ideal candidate pools that have been highlighted as of late. This is illustrated in a recent Instagram message, ‘itsinyoutogive’.

Instagram Illustrating World Donor Day 2015

Instagram Illustrating World Donor Day 2015

CBS has a number of Youtube videos, the newest video with the potential to gain some good exposure. It has some of the key elements noted above – Boomer and Millennials appear and has a ‘feel good’ style that will sway the hesitant donor about the pride that comes with donating.

All these social media avenues for Canadian Blood Services are an excellent opportunity interact more effectively with the community and can be improved by making their comments more current and seasonal. Off the top of my head, here’s just a few:

  • This is ramping up, and has to potential to tap into volunteers who are not away during peak holidays.  It falls before the Christmas season really hits its stride. To clarify, “It is a new Canadian movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Cyber Monday. The “Opening day of the giving season,” it is a day where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.”
  • New Trudeau government – their party colour is red
  • Valentine’s day – red
  • Canada Day – red, of course
  • Fall – red leaves

Giving Tuesday






Topical social media can bring to the Canadian Blood Services a better sense of responsibility and connectivity.

With the many varied social media platforms that the Canadian Blood Services has developed, it will take time, consistency and transparency to make their future efforts successful.

Lessons Learned:

Social media needs to be current and it therefore constantly changing. “It’s in you to give.” is a tag line that’s outlived its usefulness.

Act quickly to amend policy and minimize damaging reputation. Thoughtful posts and carefully considered text makes for effective reach.

Aim carefully at target audience. Make the subject of the social media message more relevant to the group, to create greater reaction.

Submitted By: Dianne McBride, SMBP Student, University of Waterloo

To contact the author of this entry please email at:

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance.