Companies often find themselves in situations where they are not in a position to make public statements, and the challenge is always how do you say, “No comment,” without saying, “No comment?” PR consultants, who focus on corporate and brand reputation, and lawyers, who focus on corporate legal exposure, often give conflicting advice. Lawyers like, “No comment.” The non-commitment that comes from that statement makes their job so much easier. “No comment,” however, does not make the story go away. Those two words actually say, “I know a lot; I’m just not going to tell you!”
“No comment” encourages the journalist to go around management to find an answer to the question from other sources. That answer from other sources is frequently inaccurate, and it can not only generate misinformation about the company, but it can also fuel further damaging speculation. In constructing a response when you are prohibited from providing substantive information, consider the following scenarios:
1) Speculative questions: Sometimes rumors circulate on a very low level. These rumors can relate to a potential IPO, financial transactions like a merger or acquisition, or a new technology or product the company is developing. Rumors abound, and it is reasonable that companies cannot speak to every issue raised by a journalist. Management can often deflect these questions by saying, “As a matter of corporate policy, we do not comment on rumor or speculation in the market.”
2) Persistent rumors: Rumors, good or bad, can grow and take on a life of their own. Investors can trade on recurring rumors, or consumers may make purchasing decisions about a company’s products based on rumors. Once rumors begin to influence the media’s coverage and perception of the company, management needs to contain the issue as quickly as possible. If the company needs more time to address the rumor completely, acknowledge the issue when asked by a journalist and give a realistic timeframe when the company can provide more clarity and details. Be committed to your timeframe, and contact the journalist in a timely manner.
3) Crisis: Occasionally, the media will have the story before you do. You may not have complete information to give. In this situation, provide as much accurate information as you can, even as limited as it may be; explain how the company is addressing the situation; and provide a timeframe to get back to the journalist with more information.
Any “No comment” response should show respect to the reporter asking the question. Sometimes you will just not be able to discuss a matter in public, but if you explain the reasons why that is so, you enhance your credibility with both the media and your company stakeholders. If management demonstrates a willingness to work with the media on providing timely and accurate information, journalists will more likely respond in a reasonable fashion.
Have you ever tried to get the media’s attention to no avail? Watch this short clip for a tip on how to build relationships with reporters.
Poor communication can hinder collaboration and success in business and in relationships. I recently read an article about how Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman turned around their company by implementing more effective communication strategies. She contends that, for a company to be successful, everyone from stakeholders to employees to customers must have a clear line of sight, thus a more transparent view, into the company’s strategy and performance, whether it is good or bad. She suggests that if you acknowledge your problems and issues in addition to your successes, people are more likely to build trust in your brand.
Most industries, especially retail, have caught on to the idea of transparent communication, whether that’s via social media or price transparency. One industry, however, is lagging behind this trend— the healthcare industry. It is considered a complex and misunderstood industry, and some healthcare practitioners still have difficulty in their efforts to be more transparent with their patients.
Modern Healthcare recently published an article encouraging healthcare consumers to demand price transparency. They equated it to being as simple as receiving a receipt for the services performed. They referenced that we, as customers, can go into a Dunkin Donuts and see all the prices laid out; if you don’t receive a receipt, your order is free. Now, the healthcare industry has a lot more moving parts than your decision about what to eat for breakfast, but, according to Modern Healthcare, this year employers and their workers will pay close to $900 billion for insurance coverage, making it reasonable for consumers to expect some upfront accountability.
According to Forbes, Dan Munro, pricing transparency is the healthcare story of the year.
In May, the Washington Post announced that the federal government would release the prices hospitals charge for the 100 most common inpatient procedures. When The Post reviewed what some hospitals charge, there were vast differences in price. According to the article, “Experts attribute the disparities to a health system that can set prices with impunity because consumers rarely see them — and rarely shop for discounts.” If I had to guess, I would say that 2014 will be filled with consumers demanding more information like the government’s reports to see what they are really paying for, causing hospitals to do more research on their end for the “best prices.”
Transparency in other industries has become so natural and expected; I think it will only be a matter of time before consumers demand more transparency in healthcare. They want to know what they are paying and for what services…. in advance.
What do you think about transparency? Will the healthcare community be able to provide it? Where do you see this heading?
On Dec. 7, Lovell Communications and our client, Metro World Child, visited the Fox News studio in Washington, D.C., to talk about Operation Holiday Hope, the nonprofit organization’s annual campaign to provide Christmas gifts to inner-city children living in poverty.
Sitting down with anchor Uma Pemmaraju, Metro World Child founder Pastor Bill Wilson discussed how, after being abandoned by his mother at the age of 12, he chose to devote his life to helping children in need. Today, Metro World Child works with 100,000 children around the globe each week. And this year its Operation Holiday Hope program will provide Christmas gifts to 150,000 children in need.
Please take a minute to check out the interview.
Looking to buy a last minute gift for that hard-to-please medical coder, or just want to bring a little holiday humor to the hospital or clinic billing office? Well, look no further. “Struck by Orca,” a book of 32 color and black and white images illustrating some of the most unusual new ICD-10 codes, just launched its first print run.
Highlighted recently in Modern Healthcare’s business blog, the idea emerged after a group of friends began amusing themselves by looking up odd codes like W56.22xA, “struck by orca, initial encounter,” and V91.07xD, “burn due to water-skis on fire, subsequent encounter.”
While the concept may sound funny or dismissive to those in the industry given the amount of time and stress spent preparing for ICD-10 implementation Oct. 1, 2014, the release of “Struck by Orca” illustrates a very important point that is often overlooked in healthcare these days – finding creative ways to communicate changes that are, well, not so fun.
As professional communicators, we are often assigned the task of developing tools to deliver a message to diverse groups of stakeholders that can break through the noise. Often, that message may be complicated and we may fall back to tried and true tactics, like newsletters and brochures. The ICD-10 implementation, which increases the number of medical diagnoses codes from more than 14,000 to more than 68,000, is daunting, and a tool like “Struck by Orca” can bring some much-needed lightness among the sea of newsletters, brochures, emails, intranet posts, break room flyers and small-group huddles.
A book of humorous illustrations is not the end-all-be-all answer to internal communications, but it is a good awakening to the possibilities that exist when we think creatively. Oh, and the publishers are thinking about producing a countdown calendar for next year. Be on the lookout!
Looking for creative ways to communicate not-so-fun topics? Learn the 6 Secrets of Effective Hospital Internal Communication or share your thoughts and best practices in the comments
After a lively discussion on the financial and cultural impact of hospitals employing physicians, panelists at the Becker’s Hospital CEO Roundtable in Chicago last week were asked by healthcare publishing veteran Chuck Lauer what was foremost on their minds today about healthcare. They had only 30 seconds to respond; here is a summary of their comments.
- Data collection. It will be at the center of quality outcomes and financial reimbursement.
- Evidenced-based medicine. Physicians won’t get “aligned” unless you show them the data. They are scientists.
- Cost control has never added any value to patients
- We need payment reform and we need it fast.
- 90 percent of all the scientists who have ever lived are alive today. Change will escalate.
- Patients need more skin in the game. Providers need to better educate patients so they can more actively participate in their own care.
- “The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.” With credit to Barbara Kingsglover.
- Providers need to be encouraging patients to have advanced directives. It will save an enormous amount of money.
- We don’t have any choice: If we don’t’ collaborate, we won’t make progress.
- We’re still excited about healthcare.
Looking forward to the next annual Becker’s Hospital Conference May 15-17 in Chicago.