1. Understand what your audience is thinking and feeling
While it may come from a sincere place, sending a “We’re all in this together” communication to your community is ineffective. People don’t believe you. People are scared. Very scared. They care about one thing, not dying. They care about themselves, their children, parents and grandparents, and if there’s any emotion to be spared, they care for their neighbors and friends. That’s the world right now. It seems cold. People will doubt your claims about how safe, clean and secure your hospital is. The doubt will remain until there’s a vaccine. Don’t blame the media and your politicians, because it’s not their fault. Blame it on basic natural human biological instincts: the will and drive to survive.
The community mindset has surely affected your hospital’s revenues. Your elective surgeries are most likely suffering, daily wellness visits are down or have stopped completely because people’s normal health regimens have been put on lock- down. Your only real solution is by proving, not just saying, you are who you say you are. Prove to your community that you are having real positive effects, and it will slowly shift their instinctual survival mentality. The good thing about Ameri- can attitudes and behaviors is that they forget easily. They can be persuaded.
2. Stop sugar-coating your messages.
This is a time to be straight forward. Put away your normal policies, communication strategies and typical healthcare rhetoric. Tell, share and describe in great detail the complete story. Tell people what you’re doing and the outcomes you are having. If by chance, people are putting off their wellness regimens, and we know they are, tell them the potential negative outcomes of that decision. We know cancer cases have risen, stroke events have risen, unchecked heart ailments leading to an increase in heart attacks are happening. Spell it out for your community: the likelihood of dying of Covid is far less than the ailments they may be avoiding. Send that message to your community and watch visitation increase. Yes, it’s a scare tactic (which we don’t always believe works), but in this case, it’s one supported by facts and figures. Give people rational truths, and they’ll make a rational decision. People are far more willing to believe in their local community leader- ship than any national governing groups or media outlets. Use that to your advantage
3. Treat patients one-on-one, not as a mass.
If you haven’t already, supply your staff with the verbiage and messaging you want them to take out into your community, on-site and off-site, during their daily lives. Give them the tools to be the apostles for your hospital in connecting with and safeguarding people. This is a one-on-one approach and not a mass approach. Billboards, emails, social media and TV will not be as effective in delivering quality, personal messaging. People want to hear a voice from a real human. Nurses are the number one most highly respected professionals (of any industry), so use them to your advantage. People love nurses. They’re angels. Use them to tell your story. Some simple ideas are to employ your staff to visit churches, community centers, recreation centers, schools, businesses – anywhere people are working or spending their time, to deliver one-on-one messages (proof and truths) about your hospital. Don’t rely on your marketing and PR team to do this work. They should be developing the messaging to be delivered in the real words of your staff. Let them deliver the messages.
4. Take care of your staff like they’re your own children.
Happy employees will be your best asset in connecting with your audiences. I think it goes without saying hospital personnel are stressed and physically and mentally exhausted. If you have a good staff, now is the time to go well above and beyond to make them feel valued and appreciated. How you do that is up to you. Incentives, either with salary raises or vacation time work well, but aren’t always the real motivator. Sometimes, identifying their value and providing a supportive atmosphere will allow them to thrive and be happier. The idea is to support their efforts in any way they need to do their jobs to their potential. Do not keep the same Covid team for long periods of time – rotate your nurses and staff from Covid care into other areas that may provide more positivity and ease their stresses.
This is also a good time to identify staff who are not on the train. This will help you make changes and hire professionals that believe in your hospital and its mission. Under performing staff will affect the mortality of your high-performing staff. Get the bad ones out immediately. Reward the good ones routinely.