Lack of Compassionate Communication after Medical Center Shooting

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    Competent, confident, and compassionate – the Three C’s of Crisis Communications

    Renown Regional Medical Center was the scene of a tragic shooting incident last month when a man calmly walked into a doctor’s office and fired, killing two and wounding two more. As the scene of the crime, and a large area service provider, Renown had a duty to deliver information to its stakeholders regarding the incident. Problem is, while Renown did well in appearing confident and competent, two of the Three C’s of Crisis Communication, it utterly failed to convey the third, and perhaps most important, C – compassion.

    While the first two can be done simply by laying out the facts, compassion requires a bit more thought, and thus seems to slip off the radar of an incredible number of organizations. This is clearly what happened at Renown, which put out the following robot-esque statement on its website hours after the shooting:

    We can confirm that there was a shooting in a professional office building located on the northeast corner of the Renown Regional Medical Center campus. The police have secured the campus, and we are cooperating fully with the investigation. We will provide more details as they become available.

    After law enforcement was on the scene and had evaluated the danger, Renown got another chance, but failed once again to include a single drop of compassion:

    Renown Regional Medical Center has returned to normal business operations. People are able to come and go as needed. However, everyone is encouraged to avoid the NE corner of the hospital campus. We continue to work with the Reno Police Department on their investigation.

    These days, stakeholders want to know that you care, and the way you show that is through compassion. A simple expression of understanding for the fear and sadness the local community was surely feeling would have gone a long way to help with crisis management for the situation, but instead Renown simply put up a couple of bullet points and went back to business as usual.

    Is this the type of mistake that will put you out of business? Well, honestly, no. Is this the type of mistake that will slowly poison public opinion against you until you wake up one morning wondering why all of the chatter about your organization seems to be negative? Absolutely.

    Include compassion in every message you put out, and you’ll suddenly find a lot more people are willing to listen.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]