How to handle negative press

No marketing strategy works as best as ‘word of mouth’ in the health sector, even in this digital age. Patients still rely on recommendations from friends and relatives when choosing a doctor or hospital. While you may enjoy a stellar reputation, negative or unfavorable publicity is to be expected from time to time. It’s not all rosy all the time. However, a negative word of mouth or a negative story in the press can be nightmarish for the doctor and the healthcare establishment as it can destroy their credibility.

This crisis too can be managed…negative press can be dealt with and the damage minimized.

  1. If there is bad press, don’t hide or ignore it, instead confront it. While “silence is golden”, remaining silent may be interpreted as admission of guilt.
  2. Don’t panic; keep a cool head. Don’t react, but respond.
  3. Present your version of the story rationally, supported by facts, to the newspaper or the media, which has carried the story. You have a right to reply if you think that the story reported is biased or factually inaccurate.
  4. Never talk ‘off the record’.
  5. Take help from your legal team and PR professionals.
  6. The welfare of patients is the foremost for doctors. A negative story would bring forth several queries not only from other interested journalists/press but also patients and their families, perhaps even your employees. They need assurance. Try to anticipate questions and be ready with clear and concise answers… “No comment” may not be the right response as it may give the impression that you are being defensive.
  7. Be empathetic.
  8. A lawsuit should be the last resort.
  9. The usual approach in case of a negative story is to deny and defend. Instead, introspect if there could be some truth in it. This could be just the impetus to shake off complacency and turn it into an opportunity for improvement.
  10. If you have made a mistake, then admit it and apologize. You should not only say sorry, but you should also mean it. It may help restore the goodwill and trust that has been lost. An insincere apology may only complicate matters further.
  11. Above all, pre-empt a potential crisis and take timely steps to prevent it.

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