Accreditation is 6 months away and your strategic planning documents will be shared. What will you do in the next 6 months to show that you are fixing the problems?
I will emphasize our areas of expertise, i.e. The hospital's cancer activities and heart disease projects, releasing a flurry of reports about our studies and activities in this area. We will also center on our attraction to a non-traditional population, and on the quality of our staff and services.
I will also convene media presentations, and other publicity appearances where I will publicly acknowledge our problems, combining that, though, with our strengths, and disclosing intensions and prospective steps that we will take to deal with our problems. I will divert the possibility of mergence for future discussion (at the moment it doesn't sound too appealing but other aspects have to be dealt with first.)
The main problems are: the poor media image, and financial difficulties that include fewer clients who can afford to pay for treatment; decreasing insurance reimbursements; and shrinking market share, all of which is leading us into debt.
As regards the media, the first step would be to distinguish the type of negative presentation featured. If it represents a credible issue with product or service, the most amenable approach would be to do precisely what I intend to do: i.e. To acknowledge our challenging situation, and describe how we intend to deal with it. I would also use the media as means to solicit feedback and constructive suggestions from the larger public. The tenor of the response should be positive and honest.
It may, however, be that the media may have no valid reason for their rancor, and their spread against us is unjust and one-sided. In this case, it is best to ignore it, since responding might only lead to a spiral of attacks that will, aside from being detrimental, be wasteful to our time. The onus here is to focus on positive activity and interventions.
There are very few ways to deal with the situation of remaining afloat, and my hospital is undergoing challenging times. My best solution is to focus on, develop, and emphasize our strengths, proving how we provide a niche -- and an important one at that -- that noone else in the immediate community can supply. This needs publicity to direct the community's attention to this niche, and this is what we will focus on.
2. A baby is kidnapped from the maternity ward? What will your response be?
The first step will be to hush down the news as much as possible, whilst showing the public that we deal with the crisis in a reasoned, calm manner.
Several steps are taken simultaneously: PR personnel emphasize the rarity of the incident, and that security has rarely, if ever, been breached at the hospital before. PR also announces that the hospital has already taken steps to track kidnapper, that reinforced security have been moved in to protect the other babies, and that hospital board will meet to discuss precautions so that similar events will not occur in the future. The motion here will be to reduce drama of incident and to stage a counter response to predictable negative media reaction.
The response during the first hours is the most critical. Here we will have to come out early with our statement, and establish contact with the media so that we can present our position.
We have to ascertain to speak with one voice, so that multiple accounts of the story are not heard. A sense of confidence, control, and coordination must be projected. It will be one spokesperson only who will publicize and present the situation.
Not all of the media questions need to be responded to; some may be avoided. The most important requirement is to retain one's honesty throughout, whilst keeping in mind that, however, sympathetic the reporter may seem, wariness is in order because the reporter's job is to report. A realization that not all reporters are necessarily 'bad', or 'out to get you' may also help in my relationship with the media and with the spokesperson preventing us from getting sucked in by intimidating questions. Respect and professionalism in my relationship with them is recommended.
Although peace time (as in the previous situation) recommended that responding to petty attacks is fruitless, the reverse holds in a crisis where condemnation must be instantly dealt with, particularly if the hospital is accused unfairly, or the information is wrong. Patient privacy and other matters of confidentiality must be protected at all costs, and I am ready to imply that were the media to be too ready to impugn the hospital, we would fight back whatever the costs. The reporter is the first one who should be approached, and if he doesn't respond, 'higher courts' should be approached.
Third party support and endorsement would be helpful in this case, namely getting some of our supporters to publicize the aberration of the incident and the customary quality of hospital security particularly around the maternity area
3. An employee just slipped on a wet floor and was seriously injured? What will your response be?
The first instinctive step would be to care for the employee, and to ascertain that he/she is rapidly and thoroughly seen to. PR personnel would focus on the capability and diligence of out competent staff in managing this procedure.
I will also ascertain that the disaster area is rapidly cleaned up, and will hold a meeting of staff, stakeholders, and relevant individuals to brainstorm manner show we can prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.
A series of training programs will be implemented where staff will be taught safety measures particularly as is relevant to a health-care environment.
A further resolution will be to conduct regular supervisory and inspection trips of wards and hospital areas to ensure that safety methods are in place.
We will also publicize our acceptance and utilization of the scale devised by the John Hopkins School of Public Health that developed a safety-climate measure (consisting of a survey / questionnaire) that hospital administrators can use in order to target aspects of site and programs that may threaten the safety, hygiene, and protection of the work environment (EHS, 2000)
4. The hospital down the road just received several million dollars to build the new Bill Gates Cancer Research Institute. What will your response be?
We will publicize our congratulations to the hospital so that the public is aware of our mutual feelings of amicability and that we bear no rancor or grudge. At the same time, we will be careful to point out distinctions in our cancer research; how we differ from that particular hospital and where our niche lies. We will also accentuate our specialization in heart disease.
The hospital's relations with the community should be open, honest, and communicative.
In this case, multichannels of communication can present the diverse voices of our competent officials and doctors assuring the competing institution of our well wishes. Whilst providing a positive public image for our hospital, this sort of response has the potential, at the same time, of encouraging the public that we are not at odds with another institution, that we are cohesive in our approach, and can also foster enhanced media relationship at various levels in the organization.
We can manipulate this situation in another way: Reporters, being generalists, are, forever, seeking qualified specialists on particular subjects. They also possess less information that we do about the hospital and healthcare trend. We can provide reporter with such a 'source' pointing out that the matters that our agency is specialized in are of topical and wide-reaching concern. Cancer and heart disease are on the rise; conflicting data exists; we can provide reporters with a…