Emory University Hospital had a tough crowd to deal with when they announced that they’d be receiving and caring for two American missionary doctors who had contracted the Ebola virus in West Africa.


However, the way they chose to handle the issue and communicate with the general public was a true example of effective crisis management. Let’s take a look at three important takeaways from the way Emory handled this crisis.


1. Establish the real problem and then find a strategic way to resolve it

Emory was flooded with negative comments and feedback when they made their announcement about the missionary doctors. People were upset and scared and they took to social media to make sure their concerns were heard, loud and clear.

However, upon assessment, it became evident that a big part of this backlash was a result of incomprehension and a lack of true understanding around the disease, its capability of spreading and Emory’s goals and dedication in their mission.

Instead of responding to each individual complaint, and instead of choosing to close their ears and not respond, Emory chose to listen and focus on the route of the problem: lack of education on the matter. They listened to the concerns by monitoring the discussions and complaints, and then published videos and editorials addressing the most pertinent concerns and misconceptions about the disease and their decision. They educated the public by releasing compassionate responses and cold hard facts.


2. Do not let the trolls / bullies take you off-topic

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re being attacked with negativity online, and to lose your focus. However, losing your focus is the worst thing you can do in this sort of situation. Imagine if Emory would have only focused on the negative noise and not dug deeper. They never would have determined the real route of the problem and communicated their response the way they did. The situation could have easily escalated, resulting in the spreading of even more unnecessary fear and attacks against the hospital.

This reinforces the need and benefits of being prepared. When you’re prepared with a crisis response plan, you have a logical plan that you can fall back on, even in the midst of emotional turbulence.

Related: Pandemic Exercises – Build Resiliency Within Your Business


3. Communication is your strongest weapon in an issue or a crisis

The better you communicate in a crisis, the better off you will be. Communicating effectively and in real-time allows you to position your organization as the credible and reliable source of information within your own crisis.

Emory positioned themselves as a compassionate and thoughtful leader, by using emotional intelligence.

Failing to communicate compassionately and effectively in a crisis will result in a continual loss of control throughout the crisis, which is the opposite of what you want. Just look at what happened in Ferguson; a crisis that never needed to escalate to the point that it did.

Effective communication is your strongest crisis management weapon – though needs to be followed with action. You have to prove that you mean what you say.

Melissa Agnes

Melissa Agnes

Melissa Agnes, President and co-founder of Agnes + Day Inc., has developed an international reputation for crisis management, planning and training by helping large global brands prevent and manage a wide range of corporate issues and crises. Her client list includes Fortune 500 companies, as well as public, private and not-for-profit organizations.

Fluent in English and French, Melissa is an international and sought-after speaker and guest-lecturer. She has spoken to organizations and audiences including NATO, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Ministries of Foreign Defense, Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) and a wide range of private and public companies, universities and non-profit organizations. She has been honored to share the stage with members of the Ukraine government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Melissa is a regular guest on Montreal’s leading morning radio talk show, CJAD, where she is referred to as “the official crisis manager of the Tommy Schnurmacher show”. She has been interviewed and published about in publications including VIBE Magazine, USA Today, Tech News World and more.

Melissa is the editor of the highly acclaimed Crisis Intelligence Blog, and the host of the internationally recognized Crisis Intelligence Podcast. Published regularly and followed by dozens of Fortune companies, the blog and podcast provide insights to help organizations manage issues and crises in today’s connected and real-time world.

Melissa was named by CyberAlert as one of “the 30 top most influential bloggers in public relations”; and her blog was ranked sixth of the “60 of the best Public Relations blogs in the world”by Inkybee.

Melissa has published numerous articles and white papers in trade journals including The Non-Profit Digest and Communications World, and is the author of two self-published ebooks:

When she isn’t managing crises or speaking in front of an audience, Melissa enjoys adventuring around the world (often on a sailboat), snowboarding, yoga and champagne sipping in good company.