Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Can you avoid a social media and press disaster in a crisis?

Sometimes, another organization's PR missteps are an opportunity to learn how not to handle a PR crisis.  Just ask the any of the hospitals, health systems and vendors that have been in the media in what seems a continuous stream of news for data breaches, hacking, and ransomware attacks.  

And the reaction by providers and vendors have been from the no comment stance to we are doing everything possible. Then that is inevitably followed by an article where a provider executive states that they should be paid to protect data. Really?

A laptop with patient or client data was left in a car or stolen. The vendor who prints health plan member cards is hacked and was data stolen.  Or the, “We had 60 days under the law before we had to report it.”  How do you think the public reads that answer of hiding behind regulations when their personal data is at stake?

In an age of social media where the employee, consumer, even government officials are the new paparazzi for the 24-hour news cycle, those bygone days of being able to mismanage a PR crisis and response and skate away untouched.

Is your response to huddle in a conference roo,m hiding? Do you send out poorly prepared underlings, to face reporters and the public? Does leadership, make lofty pronouncements at the outset, that could come back to haunt you because, at this point, you just don't know?   Do you react as an arrogant organization with the, "How dare you question our response"?   Do you think that it can never happen to you? Do you have a crisis communications plan in place?

Every provider and vendor organization will face a PR crisis. How you handle the communications, will determine the amount of brand damage and length of time people remember, the good and the bad.  In this age of social media and the Internet, there are no, "We just need to wait three days to weather the storm", anymore.

Many times organizations respond with:

  •    Lack of organizational understanding of the need to handle a situation as crisis  communication;
  •   Different, conflicting senior management messages
  •   Testy responses to questions
  •    Lack of preparation by speakers in understanding the seriousness of the   communication
  •    Poor speaker body language
  •    No overriding organizational message
  •    Corporate arrogance
  •     Lost messaging opportunity
  •    Give the appearance of blaming others
  •    The organization appearing not accountable
  •    The organization furthering to anger the media;
  •     No response at all with the "it's just a three-day story and will go away."
  •    Sending out unprepared underlings to face the media
  •    Failure to leverage social media and employees to tell the right story

Is it not true that any press is good press!  Every day, someone somewhere faces a crisis communications issue that is poorly handled.

It is not difficult, and should be part of your marketing strategy as a separate communications plan. By following these planning guides, you can weather any storm, limit reputation, revenue and ultimately brand image damage:

·         Understand the nature of the situation
  •  Be transparent
  •  Be proactive in how you intend to address the situation
  •  Restrict the amount of time senior leaders i.e. the CEO or president speak
  •  Make sure everyone has the same message and is on board
  •  Develop strong organizational messaging of care and concern
  •  Don’t scapegoat, blame others or give the appearance of blaming others
  •  Don’t tell people things will change when things are not changing
  •  Practice, practice, practice
  • Bring in an outside PR firm for another viewpoint
  • Understand that your reputation is built up over a long time and can is destroyed in a few short minutes
  • Remember that it is not just a three-day story
  • Watch your body language
  •  Know your facts about past performance; reporters will be prepared
  •  Learn from others
  •  Each year engage in a day of media training for executives. Dealing with the media is a learned skill that the majority of managers do not have.  It is not as easy as it looks.

Most importantly, engage the media all the time all year round not just when you have a problem.  By establishing positive media relations with the good you do, you won't necessarily be cut any slack in a bad situation, but you will get the opportunity to tell your side.  You won't if you don't have good media relations already in place.

Plan now for that crisis communications event, and you will better off as a prepared healthcare organization.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group,  Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

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