Bimbo Banter

Rapid Response:  Insights from Texas Health Resources

  • Crisis
  • May 29, 2015
  • by Spaeth Communications

You can always learn something new. During a recent Dallas PRSA luncheon, four communication leaders from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital shared valuable crisis response insights from handling the Ebola crisis in Dallas.

THR’s communication leaders were on the front lines when the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the country’s first Ebola patient was at their hospital. The team members candidly shared their insights from the unprecedented experience, or what they astutely refer to as the “October event.”

Despite having a team of experienced professionals, a robust crisis training resume and a 40-page crisis communication plan, the onslaught of worldwide attention was similar to attempting to hold back a tsunami with sandbags.  

The team brought up four points (of many) worth considering in your own crisis planning:

  1. The speed and ubiquity of information dissemination can exceed the ability to manage it. For example, in a conference call with the CDC and a multitude of others, the CDC insisted that a press release be embargoed. Approximately 45 seconds after the call ended, the communication team received its first media calls indicating the news was out. Managing the accuracy of public information in this frenzied environment proved an exceptional challenge.
  2. Coordinating communications with multiple and sometimes competing entities becomes complicated. Coordinating the release of information becomes immeasurably more complicated when so many governmental agencies and political entities such as the CDC, local officials and the governor’s office are involved.
  3. The prolonged drama of the event takes a toll on human resources. THR’s team noted that while the typical crisis development may take several days, the Ebola crisis consumed weeks of 18-hour days, testing them to their physical limits. Meanwhile, the regular business of a busy hospital goes on. THR recommends that your crisis plan include the ability to backfill your routine communication functions during this critical period.
  4. Sometimes, it’s okay to let things happen – it could be beneficial. Remember #PresbyProud? The THR team didn’t establish that. THR and Presby’s staff, doctors and nurses felt so compelled to speak on behalf of the entire team, they started tweeting, Facebooking and Instagramming #PresbyProud. The result was an effective and genuine outpour of support and moving stories about the hospital and the entire system.

Spaeth Communications wishes to thank Texas Health Resources’ Paul Szablowski, Senior Vice President of Communications & Image, and his entire team for their generous, thoughtful and invaluable advice to their professional colleagues.

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