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Crisis Communications: You’re in Charge! Adrienne Spafford Director, Strategy and Public Affairs September 21, 2015
From Residential Care to Health Service Provider: Long-Term Care Today • Homes were originally resourced, built and equipped to provide assistance with activities of daily living (ADL) – bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, etc. • The shift to home care has dramatically changed the role of long-term care in the health care continuum.
Since 2010, only seniors with high or very high care needs are eligible for long-term care.
Seniors are entering LTC homes when they are older, frailer, and in need of more care.
Rapid Change, Dramatic Impact •
22% - 24% increase in the number of residents who need help with activities of daily living such as toileting (22%), personal hygiene (23%) and dressing (24%).
Increasing Public Transparency and Accountability • 2009: Public Reporting on 4 quality indicators through Health Quality Ontario • 2013: Ontario Ministry announces hiring of 100 new inspectors to complete annual compliance audits • 2014: Public Reporting on 9 quality indicators through the Canadian Institute for Health Information • 2015: first round of RQI results released
Member Experience with Crises
Focus of management and staff on dealing with the immediate incident, not managing communications.
General hesitancy of speaking to the media – leads to “no comment” in stories.
Lack of reliable data and key messages to support communications efforts.
The double whammy: Crises often happen when you’re short staffed, when key people are away, and on the weekend.
Value of a Crisis Manual: A Clear Process to Follow Under Pressure • Calmly manage unanticipated events – even if you’re inexperienced. • Communicate effectively with your staff, residents, and media. • Minimize damage to your organization’s reputation.
What is a crisis in a long-term care home? • Accidental resident death, abuse or injury as a result of violence or neglect at a long-term care home • Family complaints to media • Staffing issues or strike • Site-specific environmental damage (e.g., fire, flood) • Site-specific disease outbreak (serious)
#1: Convene the crisis team asap • Home administrator • Home’s communications lead or communications consultant, if applicable • Judy Irwin, Senior Manager, Communications, OLTCA • Owner/operator, if applicable
Assess the situation. Gather information. •What happened? When? How? Where? •Why did it happen? •What steps have been taken so far? •Have the media called? Are they likely to call soon? •Who knows about this? What are people saying? Then…. •Develop key messages • Assign roles ‐ for communicating to police/officials, staff, residents/families, stakeholders, media spokesperson
#2: Develop key messages
1. Express sympathy and empathy for the effects on residents and families. 2. Describe the basic facts of what has happened, recognizing that you don’t need to (and likely won’t be able to) share the details 3. Outline actions being taken and next steps. Describe what you are doing to reassure residents and keep them safe. 4. Commit to an update
What media want
#3: Respond to media – “holding” Take charge with a Holding Statement •
This is the information you provide after the crisis team meeting, before you have all the details.
If media have contacted you about a story, aim to prepare and release this holding statement within an hour or two of their initial call. Let them know you’ll be back in touch with more information. Ask about their deadline and give them a timeline to respond before then.
The same holding statement can be provided to staff, residents, and families.
Follow up with a news release or written/emailed statement •
As you learn more information that would calm public/resident concerns and protect your organization’s reputation, you can provide this in a more detailed email to the reporter or a news release. If you can’t say more, let the reporter know this and why (for example, a police investigation).
Sample holding statement (for a death) •
We are deeply saddened by the tragic event that took place today.
Our sincere sympathies go out to the resident’s family at this difficult time.
We are unable to share further details at this time because (there is a police investigation underway; we don’t have family consent; we are respecting the family’s request for privacy.)
We will be back in touch before your deadline (confirm reporter’s deadline) to let you know if we are able to provide any more information (lets the reporter know you aren’t shutting them down.)
#4: Inform key stakeholders •
Outreach to key stakeholders is critical, both to inform them of the facts and position your home as the primary source for information on the issue and as being on the ball – you want to avoid media “bombshells”
Your crisis team may want to contact key stakeholders such as your local CCAC and LHIN. OLTCA may also inform the Minister’s office. • Before contacting stakeholders, ensure that your key messages are developed and approved so that they form the basis of the information being shared with stakeholders. • Your Resident and Family Councils are key stakeholders – keep them informed early and often
#5: Keep your finger on the pulse • As the crisis unfolds, you’ll be in regular contact with the crisis team, updating information and determining next steps • Monitor the media coverage to determine if there are emerging issues or misinformation you need to address • As you learn new information either about the crisis or about the way it is being perceived, use the message tree to update key messages • As necessary, reconvene the crisis team, either by phone or email, to determine whether you need to issue updated information for the public, in order to calm public concerns and/or protect your reputation
#6: Debrief (the often forgotten step) • What worked well, both within the organization and the crisis team? • What didn’t? • What would you do again if you had another crisis? • What would you do differently?
Top tips for keeping cool in a crisis •
Stop, drop, and roll: Put everything else on hold and make this your only priority. If media have called, you’re on their timeline.
Keep written notes of all your conversations. The crisis communications manual has excellent template logs complete with questions to ask in a crisis team meeting, when media call, and in a conversation with stakeholders.
Keep staff in the loop. Even before the crisis team convenes, let your staff know there will be a team managing the incident, and to refer all media calls to your designated media contact. Keep them in the loop with the same information you provide to media and stakeholders.
Resources This is Long-Term Care, an annual report that explains the sector to media. It’s available on our website. When you respond to media: “I’m sending you a link to a report on long-term care for some background – other reporters have found it helpful.” E-version of this report and the crisis communications manual are on the member website at www.oltca.com
Results and Member Feedback
Ontario Long Term Care Association 425 University Avenue, Suite 500 Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1T6 647-256-3490 www.oltca.com