It’s every long-term care administrator’s worst nightmare: A resident is locked outside the facility on a cold winter day; or, there’s been an outbreak of food-borne illness; or, a case of elder abuse has been identified. As if you’re not stressed enough over the incident and how it has affected your residents, you get a phone call from a reporter at the local daily newspaper or television station looking for “a few comments” or an on-air interview. Now your stress level skyrockets.
Even the most polished corporate executives and government representatives have moments where they crumble under intense media scrutiny. Those who are most successful at maintaining their composure and responding to media inquiries with “grace under fire” are often those who have prepared a crisis response plan before the inevitable crisis arises.
Cue Rebecca Reid, president of Reid Consulting, who presented a compelling program on crisis management at the AHCA/NCAL Conference & Expo Tuesday morning. Reid advocates “prevention, preparation, performance, and learning” as the key steps to crisis management. Practice, practice, practice is also critical: everything from how you physically present yourself (Don’t fidget or touch your hair; plant your feet firmly—don’t sway; speak slowly and don’t ramble), to memorizing key talking points and determining every possible question you might be asked and preparing non-defensive-sounding responses. Also, it’s important to be sure that you control the situation, not the reporter (e.g. you set the parameters for where the interview will be held and set a time limit). Oh, and the worst response to a question is “no comment.” You come off looking defensive and like you have something to hide.
Our industry is constantly under fire from the media and others who don’t always understand the incredible challenges long-term care faces on a daily basis. It’s in your best interest to be prepared, not only for any potential crisis, but for how you and your staff will respond to it.