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.
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.