Issues Facing the Organization
The key issues facing the Niagara Health System (NHS) is poor communication and public relation. Notably, the hospital’s strategic plans do not entail any public relations metrics. Thus, when it attracted negative public opinion due to the C. difficile outbreak, the NHS was not well equipped or prepared to effectively manage the crisis that stemmed from negative public opinion. Johnston and Sheehan (2020) elucidate that how a healthcare institution responds to a crisis and bad press is crucial to its trust and reputation. The communication and public relations struggles adversely impacted NHS’s reputation as both internal and external stakeholders lost trust with the hospital.
A possible solution to the communication and public relation issues is the formulation and implementation of an innovative communications strategy. The strategy must incorporate both short and long-term provisions. The short-term communications framework will serve as a crisis management and damage control strategy. On the other hand, the long-term aspect of the communications strategy will be geared towards ensuring that the NHS maintains an authentic relationship with all the stakeholders by making them feel they are part of the hospital. According to Pursiainen (2017), an effective communication strategy is one that builds strong relationships with the stakeholders by facilitating regular flow of purposeful information.
The central aspect of the communications strategy should be the hospital’s message to the public emphasizing what it stands for. For the short-term communications strategy, NHS should ensure to communicate as much information as possible to the public, press, and other stakeholders. The public knowledge of what is going on minimizes room for speculation (Bundy, Pfarrer, Short, & Coombs, 2017). Secondly, the hospital should take responsibility for the situation to pre-empt the blame. Taking ownership demonstrates a sense of responsibility, hence, trustworthiness. Lastly, the organization should ensure to react as fast as possible to avoid further deterioration of its reputation (Johnston & Sheehan, 2020). An effective communications strategy emphasizes character and competence.
Regarding long-term solution, NHS should integrate the formulated communications strategy into its organizational culture. The key underpinnings of the communications strategy should be integrity, character, and competence. By emphasizing integrity, an organization demonstrates care for others, transparency, and courage to stand by what is right. On the other hand, stressing competence and character cultivates three key values namely honesty, fairness, and authenticity (Bundy, Pfarrer, Short, & Coombs, 2017). Notably, the communications strategy should also incorporate a two-way communications framework so that the community is involved in the decision-making process of the hospital, where applicable. NHS should also leverage technology such as social media to improve its relationship with the public.
If well implemented, the short-term solution will manage the existing crisis and repair the damage that is already done. NHS has already attracted negative press and public opinion which have adversely impacted its reputation. The short-term communications strategy will repair the reputation and help rebuild trust with the stakeholders. As for the long-term communications strategy, it will ensure that the hospital builds robust relationships with the stakeholders based on trust and mutual respect. The strategy emphasizes two-way communication and transparency, which is what has been missing in NHS’s communications with the stakeholders. The strategy will also allow NHS to be better prepared in case of a future crisis. Bottom line, the expected outcomes include effective crisis management, damage control, repaired trust and reputation, and strong relationships with all stakeholders.
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