Managing the Race Against a Bad Reputation

I like running. I used to like running. Regardless of if I was training for a 5k or a half marathon, the hardest thing to navigate wasn’t the running, it was managing the unavoidable highs and lows associated with training and running. Finishing a race ahead of your goal or realizing the hours spent planning and training truly paid off – definitely a high. The long hours spent running in rotten weather conditions, sustaining an injury that would leave you sidelined (broken foot anyone?), or the inevitable dips in morale you experience during a race are some of the lowest of lows.

Maintaining an organization’s reputation can feel a lot like training for a race. It’s filled with managing the highs and lows, and it demands planning and persistence.

One of the most essential assets an organization has is its reputation. This is especially true for healthcare organizations where reputation is often what sets one organization apart from its competitors in the eyes of the consumer – regardless of what exclusive services it may offer.

A disruption, a reduction in workforce, or a contentious contract negotiation can cause your organization’s reputation to take a hit, and a hit like that can have irreparable damages to the long-term sustainability of your organization. In the wake of negative coverage, healthcare providers, payors, and health technology companies, need to employ long-term reputation management strategies that foster open communication and transparency, and that engage internal and external audiences to combat any long-term, lasting effects.

At ReviveHealth, we’ve counseled clients spanning the healthcare spectrum through reputation management campaigns that have impacted almost every facet of an organization’s business. Building a strategy around a few key objectives will help create a productive path forward, and allow your organization to redirect lingering, negative narratives to ones that are more positive and constructive.

Six keys to managing your organization’s reputation

  1. Repair and rebuild your reputation. Own your mistake and take responsibility for it. Be open and be real with your key audiences through transparent and authentic conversations because if you don’t mean it, people won’t believe it. You should work to proactively engage key stakeholders to build and sustain your reputation and use existing resources that will strengthen your connections in your community.
  2. Neutralize any lingering negative impact. Address and explain the factors that led to the issue head on, but then pivot and revive consumer confidence and create a sense of excitement around another topic – such as what lies ahead for the overall healthcare landscape in your community, and the role your organization will play in it.
  3. Position yourself as the leading healthcare voice in the community. Be the source for credible, local information on healthcare. Leverage your strengths, assets and position to tell a story that cements your organization as the community’s leader in healthcare.
  4. Differentiate yourself from the competition. Highlight key services, community impact, quality, cost, or other attributes where your organization shines above the competition.
  5. Generate understanding and productive discussion. Foster constructive conversations about healthcare in your community, including areas of need, concern and opportunity.
  6. Improve relationships, build trust and foster a network of support. Re-engage key stakeholders or organizations that were marginalized from any public fallout by involving them in the solutions moving forward. Successfully involving them could turn them into spokespeople you can then activate around future initiatives and issues. What better way to shift the narrative than to have former nay-sayers become your mouthpieces to the communities and channels they influence?

While each situation is unique and requires distinct approaches, the final consideration that is universal in planning for any reputation management strategy is timing. Don’t wait for another crisis to appear. Implement your plan immediately, or as fast as the facts will allow you to respond. If you wait to respond, you run the risk of others filling in the blanks for you – and it won’t be with positive news.

The first days are crucial and should be devoted to building the foundation of your campaign by getting a pulse on the conversations surrounding your organization to establish a baseline of public opinion, which can be used to develop the materials and messaging you’ll use in your outreach. From there – ideally the following 30-90 days – continue the conversation beyond the immediate response and share with your key audiences what is on the horizon for your organization. One important note to keep in mind is that all communications should begin internally and then cascade to your targeted external audiences.

In the end, the ultimate goal is to return to a normal course of business. By developing and managing a plan, you can help your organization develop an established voice in the community, rebuild credibility and inoculate against any future issues you may encounter.

April 11, 2018
Is your healthcare organization ready for a crisis?
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