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Why Leadership Must Be Prepared to Handle a Crisis

Imagine this scenario:

Your administrative assistant buzzes your office and states that an investigative reporter from the television station is on the phone.

For some, that phrase would send a chill down their spine. Why?

Every senior living organization has worked hard to establish a solid reputation as one that provides quality housing, services and care for older adults.

Now a three-minute story on the nightly news or an article in the paper could damage that reputation.

And keep in mind that the story has even more reach because of social media and the public sharing that content.

How prepared is your organization to handle a crisis situation or manage a delicate issue?

Having a strategy in place is crucial. Calling upon professional help in developing, then managing, that strategy could prove to be beneficial.

Rich Schutt, CEO of Providence Life Services, oversees numerous senior living communities, home health and hospice services.

His organization, like many others, has experienced reporters calling for comments on stories that could be perceived as less than positive.

“There is no question that every senior living organization should have a crisis plan in place,” said Schutt.

“The truth of the matter is that every crisis is so unique that you really have to assess and manage them as the situation unfolds.”

Schutt goes on to say it really requires calling on help from an unbiased third party. Those within an organization tend to get into a protective mode, and may not see the whole picture in how to manage the messaging both internally and externally.

“While we might know fact from fiction in a given situation, the thoughts we have get qualified by that third party, whose reputation isn’t held in the balance,” added Schutt.

Outside consultation helps in crisis communications triage. A public relations professional is able to be in contact with a reporter to gather information.

Who has the reporter already talked to?

What did they say?

What is the reporter seeking from the organization?

What questions will he or she be asking?

What is the deadline?

Getting information from the reporter up front helps in preparation and making key decisions.

For example, does a leader do an interview or simply issue a statement? Does the organization offer any comments on social media?

Beyond responding to a media inquiry, every organization should have an up-to-date crisis plan in place that includes:

  • Crisis protocol − who is responsible for what
  • Established communication policy
  • Plans for various crisis scenarios
  • Identified spokesperson (including media training)
  • Information to key stakeholders
  • Monitoring coverage (traditional media and social)

If you’ve handled a crisis or issue and the dust has settled, step back and review how it went. Was it handled properly? What can be adjusted?

Remember, communities may still receive calls from reporters, but while they’re receiving calls in a crisis situation, there will be dozens of tweets and Facebook posts being shared.

Depending on the situation, citizen reporters may also be sharing their view of the story on social media.

More than anything, preparation is key.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time your leadership went through a crisis training workshop?

Given the social media component, your entire staff may need training too.

Do you consider your organization prepared? A crisis hits when you least expect it.

Bottom line: Be ready!


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