COM21: Ass 2

Effective Communication in Crisis

In today’s environment, it has never been more important for organisations to have a crisis management plan in place. Every day, we are faced with numerous impending disasters, both internally and externally, and finding ways to reduce panic and maintain stability is imperative. The Rancid Public Hospital (RPH) has allocated considerable resources to create a Crisis Management Task Force (CMTF) who will implement strategies that minimise damage to our brand and goodwill. This task force will create guidelines to assist the rapport between the RPH, the public and media and to ensure that, when difficult times arise, we are as fully prepared as possible.

Crisis Management involves the identification of potential risks, planning for possible outcomes, addressing situations as they occur and then mitigating them to reduce their severity (Nicholls & Glenny 2005, pp. 303-5). It is also important to monitor any continuing ramifications during the recovery period. These procedures will form part of the strategic planning for our hospital and for the flow of management communication.

A crisis is an unexpected negative event that is unprecedented, escalates in intensity and forms a serious risk to the continued management of an organisation (Boin, Kofman-Bos & Overdijk 2004, p. 110). Weick (1988, p. 306) describes them as “characterized by low probablility/high consequence events that threaten the most fundamental goals of an organization [sic].” Therefore, a crisis must be dealt with as soon as it originates. Failure to do so may risk an enlargement of a pending crisis and may cause lasting damage to a business’ reputation, lead to vulnerability for stakeholders or endanger public safety.

Crises can be prioritised on their likelihood of occurrence, the amount of damage caused, as well as the timeliness of their effect (Nicholls & Glenny 2005, p. 306). Parsons (1996, p. 26) states that crises can be ranked by the length of the effect as immediate, emerging or sustained. Using this method, the CMTF can identify and respond appropriately according to the classification of each event.

Based on crisis media principles, it is important to seize the initiative with proactive media relations (Lerbinger 2006, pp. 100-6). Forming a positive, high profile media relationship allows an organisation to create news, negate attacks and correct erroneous or unbalanced reporting. Media takes many forms which must be targeted in different ways. Newspapers, television, internet, magazines, radio and direct mail each require a unique approach to ensure the message is clear and succinct. The CMTF will ensure media outlets are contacted and utilised in the manner best suited to their format to ensure communication to the public is frequent and consistent.

 

The task force will also be responsible for fostering a strong rapport with media. It is important to cultivate trust between ourselves and the public; our relationship with media is the key to positive promotion and perception. Dezenhall (Dezenhall & Weber 2011, p. 134) says that media “lends a mantle of judicial authority”, therefore it is important to monitor and influence the way the media portrays us to the public. To enable this, press releases will be issued by the same key personnel: our spokesperson should be a credible and genuine representation of the hospital. Comments will be given quickly, succinctly, openly and honestly. In times of crisis, information will be released at regular intervals and repeated often to enable as many of our audience to hear our response (Smith 2007, pp. 46-8). These strategies will be the core basis for a media-rich relationship for the hospital and will demonstrate strong leadership within the public arena.

Other protocols to be introduced will be utilisation of surveys as these provide solid feedback on the insights and perceptions our hospital is receiving from employees and the general public (Nicholls & Glenny 2005, p. 324). We can be forewarned of deteriorating opinions, assist in combating lackadaisical attitudes toward important health issues and better prepare ourselves for latent hazards we have yet to face.

Internally, the task force will streamline communication channels allowing all information relating to a specific crisis to be centralised (McLaughlin & Monteiro 2008, p. 50). A new email pathway will be created to allow for speedy recognition of issues between affected parties that can be addressed rapidly. These internal issues will also require updated policy releases issued to staff, enabling a common ethos to be adopted by all employees. Social media will also be implemented by the CMTF and a social media policy will be introduced for all employees. This will further cement the role the CMTF have as spokespeople for the RPH.

As a hospital, we provide a public service and it is therefore essential that we prepare for the many difficulties that may come to pass. What may seem to be inconsequential, like flooding in the basement, needs to be addressed as swiftly as a mentally ill patient escaping. The public’s judgment of us and the way the media portray the quality of care that we impart are also vital issues that need to be monitored and managed. It may occur that several crises emerge at the same time (De Vos et al. 2010, p. 66) and it is crucial to implement strategies that allow a company to execute damage control immediately.

It is envisaged that the CMTF will streamline and accelerate our communication lines and assist in the flow of information from our organisation to our stakeholders and the public. Not all risks are preventable, nor is it possible to be fully prepared for them (Nicholls & Glenny 2005, p. 307). However, having an active crisis communication plan developed by the task force will assist in minimising any potential damage they may cause and allow the hospital to continue to operate in a functional and productive manner, while maintaining its good reputation.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE NOVEMBER 1, 2011

 NO RISK TO PATIENTS DURING MINOR FLOODING

Leaking Pipe Causes Minor Damage to Hospital Basement

 

The Rancid Public Hospital was made aware of a leaking pipe in our basement earlier today which caused some minor flooding and disrupted some equipment.

Specialists were called in at approximately 11am and were able to correct the problem within two hours. At this stage, it is believed the leaking pipe was caused by a damaged bottle of corrosive.

Some electrical equipment was destroyed by the flooding and is expected to be replaced by next week. The items concerned included the capacitor storage and ventilation extruders.

No patients or staff have been negatively affected by the incident; however there have been some delays in our Emergency Department. For safety reasons, small areas near the extruders have been cordoned off to prevent any harm to the public. This has reduced the total area for the Emergency Department by 5% for the next 24 hours.

We anticipate being back to normal and running at our peak performance by tomorrow morning and we appreciate the patience of the public.

 

# # #

Media Contact: Joe Blowe – (07) 3333 3333 or email joe.blowe@rancidph.com.au

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE NOVEMBER 1, 2011

 

MENTALLY ILL PATIENT ESCAPES RANCID PUBLIC HOSPITAL

Escapee last seen in the Luneetoones area; Public asked to be vigilant

A 24 year old mentally ill man escaped from Rancid Public Hospital’s Straitjacket Ward at approximately 7am today. The Hospital are working closely with police to ensure his safe return.

It is not known at this stage how the escape occurred but staff are continuing their investigations, with police assistance. Photos have been distributed to airports and bus depots as a precautionary measure.

The man, who must remain unnamed, is described as 180cm tall, of lean build and has a moustache. He is dark haired and blue eyed and may appear to be disoriented. His mental state cannot be released at this time, however he is considered a danger to himself and others.

The man’s parents have been notified of his disappearance and are flying from Cairns to assist with his recovery. They will be arriving later today but will not be speaking to media.

People in Luneetoones and surrounding suburbs should remain vigilant and should not approach the man but contact police immediately if he is seen.

# # #

Media Contact: Joe Blowe – (07) 3333 3333 or email joe.blowe@rancidph.com.au

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE NOVEMBER 1, 2011

EXCEEDINGLY LONG SURGERY WAITING LIST BEING ADDRESSED

Hospital following new list of recommendations from AMA

The Rancid Public Hospital is aware of recent findings by the Australian Medical Board in regards to long waiting lists for elective surgery. The report, released yesterday, has been studied by the administrators of the RPH who agree that the current situation is unacceptable.

Joe Blowe, the spokesperson for the RPH said, “Elective surgery waiting times are at an appalling level, and we welcome the report which iterates our core belief that more funds need to be spent on public hospitals.”

The document lists 14 recommendations, including increased funding by Governments to raise the number of beds available in wards.

The hospital commends the AMA on a well thought out plan to combat the waiting list times.

“We are endeavouring to implement the suggestions listed in their report and are working closely with the AMA to ensure their satisfaction with our efforts.” Mr Blowe continued. “Putting these new protocols into place may take up to three months, provided we receive the funding, but all the ideas listed are solid solutions to the current problem.”

# # #

Media Contact: Joe Blowe – (07) 3333 3333 or email joe.blowe@rancidph.com.au

 

 

References

 

Boin, A, Kofman-Bos, C & Overdijk, W 2004, ‘Crisis simulations: Exploring tomorrow’s vulnerabilities and threats’, Simulation & Gaming, vol. 35, no. 3, p. 378.

 

De Vos, P, Ordu ez-García, P, Santos-Pe a, M & Van der Stuyft, P 2010, ‘Public hospital management in times of crisis: Lessons learned from Cienfuegos, Cuba (1996-2008)’, Health policy, vol. 96, no. 1, pp. 64-71.

 

Dezenhall, E & Weber, J 2011, Damage Control: The Essential Lessons of Crisis Management, Prospecta Press.

 

Lerbinger, O 2006, Corporate public affairs: Interacting with interest groups, media, and government, Routledge.

 

McLaughlin, SB & Monteiro, S 2008, ‘Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) Customisation–Making It Work in Your Hospital’.

 

Nicholls, S & Glenny, L 2005, ‘Communicating for recovery: A case study in communication between the Australian Capital Territory Government and the ACT community after the ACT bushfires, January 2003’, Public Relations Issues and Crisis Management, Southbank, Thomson Social Science Press, Southbank.

 

Parsons, W 1996, ‘Crisis management’, Career Development International, vol. 1, no. 5, pp. 26-8.

 

Smith, JL 2007, ‘When It Hits the Fan: A Public Relations’ Practitioners’ Guide to Crisis Communication’.

 

Weick, KE 1988, ‘ENACTED SENSEMAKING IN CRISIS SITUATIONS [1]’, Journal of Management Studies, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 305-17.

 

 

 

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