The 5 Steps to Handle PR Disasters

Social media can be a fantastic tool to promote your practice, engage with your community and attract new patients using a platform they are already comfortable with, but not all press is good press. Perhaps someone managing your practice's Twitter page or other social media account has accidentally tweeted something meant for their personal account. Maybe an exposé in the community newsletter has targeted the building your practice occupies for safety violations, or a bad review by a lousy patient has gone viral (let's face it, the internet loves a good rant without regard for facts and alternate perspectives). Do you have a plan to handle the situation? These five steps should give you a road map to recovery:

Step 1: Admit failure, or provide level-headed explanation of your position

The biggest mistake companies make is "wait and watch." This is never a good idea, as the longer you wait to address the issue, the less ability you have to shape perception of the issue as it develops. Either own the error and state what steps you will be taking to correct or mitigate it, or explain clearly and concisely why the allegation is false. For example, in the case of a bad review that is obviously over-the-top absurd, it's ok to categorically deny it. However, be wary of violating HIPAA when addressing a blatantly false review – you are prohibited from divulging details of a patients treatment, of course, but also from even disclosing that you treated the patient.

Step 2: Step back and make a crisis plan

Don't act without thinking, however. Take time to make sure you understand the situation and response fully, and decide what you're going to do daily, weekly, and even monthly to contain and mitigate the situation. Designate a point person who will make the social media posts, reach out to relevant parties, or other tasks to get your practice's image back on the right track. Remove any offending social media posts, and if you have evidence indicating a review is false, contact the review website administrator. While it's somewhat unlikely they'll remove it, many sites can "de-prioritize" reviews that seem dubious so that new site visitors won't see it unless they go looking.

Step 3: Manage expectations with solution-oriented language

Nobody likes excuses. Once you've got your plan, lay out exactly what you plan to do in order to either resolve the situation or prevent it from happening again. Remember, offering a sincere and direct apology isn't necessarily an admission of fault, and often will hasten the recovery of your practice. According to your content schedule, post updates about your progress. Avoid buzzwords and try to use personalized language along with photos of people, which audiences will connect with more strongly than just the practice name.

Step 4: Positive content campaign

Review your current publishing schedule and look for positive ways to get your name out there, i.e. don't let the only Google search result for your practice name be negative. Maybe now's the time to kick-start that community engagement project or the increasingly popular "free dentistry for the disadvantaged day" that many practices are offering to the impoverished in their community. If you're not already doing content marketing, it's time to start posting engaging and fun content to your practice's Facebook and other social accounts.

Step 5: Review the incident and determine how it might be prevented or better-handled in the future.

Have a meeting with everyone involved and discuss what occurred. Make a plan to prevent it from happening again if possible, like restricting social media credentials to one staff member, or only allowing practice social media posts to be sent from one computer which will have no personal accounts logged in. Try to increase positive reviews by asking patients directly to share their experience online. The best time to ask for a review is right after a satisfied patient is done examining their new restoration. Let them know you'd appreciate getting their feedback, and have the front desk send a personalized reminder e-mail with a link to your page on your preferred ratings site. Be sure to use the phrase, "I look forward to reading your comments," both in person and in the e-mail.

Sources:

Bhasin, K. (2017). 9 PR Fiascos That Were Handled Brilliantly By Management. Business Insider. Retrieved 4 October 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/pr-disasters-crisis-management-2011-5

Isaac, A. (2017). Six ways to manage a business PR disaster. The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 October 2017, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connect/small-business/marketing/how-to-manag...

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