While vascular surgeons do their best to avoid situations that create a media crisis for their vascular practice and facilities, crisis situations can occur. These situations are unpleasant to think about, but is necessary to be prepared.
Having established a credible reputation as a responsible and a caring member of the community prior to any unfortunate situation is one of the best defenses when a crisis occurs. This type of good will is like having money in the bank when a crisis arises. Without this, the community meets the vascular surgeon for the first time as a result of the crisis—not a pleasant situation.
Public relations departments of facilities or universities will probably have a plan for responding to crises. In this case, everyone in the facility needs to follow the plan. If the crisis directly impacts the practice of a vascular surgeon, it is imperative that to have developed a plan to deal.
Create Crisis Plan
- Identify a media spokesperson (usually the highest-ranking person) as the gatekeeper for the flow of information. This person may be the one who responds to all inquiries
- Prepare for the worst-case scenario. The plan should include: a list of possible situations, the designated spokesperson in each scenario, the official position on the nature of each type of situation, and the personal articles the spokesperson will need for media interviews (i.e. clean shirt, resume, etc.)
- A written document outlining the plan so the entire office understands their role(s)
- A plan with the best interest of the victim(s) in mind
- Determine persons who will have to be involved with decisions, i.e. legal, PR, investor relations, and other parties directly impacted by the crisis
- An emergency call/email list in place to alert people who will be involved
- Rehearse and update scenarios quarterly
Messages During Crisis
- Tell the truth and own mistake. The problem will only become worse if facts are hidden or blame is shifted
- Respond immediately with the facts, as understood. Focus on what is known. Don’t speculate. Create three or four talking points that clearly describe the current situation and the action plan. Release new information as it unfolds
- Always express sympathy for the victim(s)
- Take steps to correct the situation immediately. Tell the media those steps
- Control the internal flow of information; staff needs to follow the crisis plan guidelines
- Take appropriate action to alleviate the victim’s distress
- Solicit input from staff concerning appropriate internal changes to avoid the same problem
- Develop plans to avoid the situation in the future
- Keep the media informed as plans are put into place to ensure the problem will not be repeated. This step will continue for weeks or months after the crisis has passed
Posted June 2010