Discredited to Advocate: Reconciling Community Relations
THE CLIENT CHALLENGE
The dominant health system in a major U.S. metro area, serving a principally minority population, came under fire by journalists and the community about the conduct of their billing and collections practices. Senior leaders were largely unaware of the organization’s financial actions – which included suing some of their own employees – and personal attacks were levied against individuals at all levels. The system’s charitable mission was questioned, particularly as a non-profit, religiously-affiliated organization. In all, the system faced an existential threat to its standing in the community.
The health system engaged Jarrard Inc. before initial media coverage broke as leaders moved quickly to react to a probe for quotes and an official response. Taking a leadership role in mitigating the crisis, we worked with the system’s executive leadership team in formulating their public announcement of a 30-day plan to review and ameliorate their financial practices. Upon our counsel, the organization put a moratorium on all their collections and evaluated their financial assistance policy to ensure it aligned with the organization’s mission.
Meanwhile, senior executives circuited to every department in the organization – from the cafeteria to clinical floors – as part of an internal listening process. We held daily conversations with senior team leaders to develop and assist with rollout of new financial policies.
Stakeholders greeted the system’s new financial policies with internal praise and widespread support in the community. New practices that made more than half the city’s population eligible for discounts were communicated swiftly and clearly to self-paying patients. Because of the organization’s humble, yet decisive approach, it was able to move on quickly from the crisis, reframing the spotlight to focus on the improved methods, including an increase in minimum wage to $15/hour.
Repairing community relations and rebuilding strong internal trust after a public relations crisis requires:
Re-aligning policies in action with the organization’s foundational mission. Ensure newly established practices are ironclad to avoid any future problems.
Getting in front of the narrative through a strong communications strategy, announcing changes clearly and quickly.
Make A Pledge
Sincerely listening to the various internal and external stakeholders to demonstrate compassion and inform the pathway to redemption.
THE WIDER LANDSCAPE
Barriers to Restoring Public Image
Surmounting intense media scrutiny
Restoring positive and secure relations with alienated staff
Reduced visibility of problems due to siloed department practices
Rapidly altering existing and offensive financial practices
community hospitals safeguarded from reputational fallout
year legacy of serving the community left untarnished by crisis
pivot away from problematic business practices
Managing or concerned about a potential reputational crisis?