Following the news that broke last week regarding Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, and the deaths of five poor people, it likely there will be a long-winded process for getting the hospital’s reputation back to what it was.
In this instance, the hospital’s reputation will be damaged on many levels. From credibility to competitive position to the fact that a hospital – not everyone’s idea of a attractive place to spend their time – has now become more unattractive.
PR agency, Bell Pottinger North, has the mammoth task of handling the hospital’s crisis communication. Associate Director, Richard Clein said: “The reality is that in this situation the police will take the lead on comms – our job is to ensure our messaging is consistent and to ensure we are reiterating the statement that the hospital is a safe place. It’s about reassuring patients and staff as well.”
Exploring the classic procedures of crisis management, there will be a process of being readily accessible to the media, showing empathy for all involved, delivering an appropriate level of communications that reinforces what the hospital does well, and laying down clear preventative processes for the future. In this instance, sending out a chain of press releases about the hospital’s goals and achievements is not the answer. People will not forget this easily, therefore a broad ranging, strategic plan is necessary to rebuild reputation.
But in the situation of a hospital crisis, how will a damaged reputation affect the “customer”? If a person is picked up by a paramedic, there is no choice about the hospital destination. Are patients at the hospital now feeling nervous about being there? Reassuring these people is a key task for every hospital employee in the wake of what has happened.
How do staff feel about working there at the moment? A medical student or nurse who has studied hard to get a job at a previously good hospital must could well be feeling tainted right now by association with Stepping Hill.
It will be interesting to see how they recover from this. The work of dedicated and trustworthy staff at the hospital needs to be highlighted so the public doesn’t judge a whole hospital by the actions of one person.
*Quote as from PRWeek, July 2011