November 20, 2014
By: Erica Stonehill @estonehill13
For the past nine years, Grey’s Anatomy viewers have been dragged through shock and scandal, praying that the inner workings of their own hospitals weren’t as dramatic as this fictional one.
In season two, a surgical intern “stole” a heart from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for her fiancé by cutting his LVAD wire (left ventricle assist device) and nearly killed him. This immediately moved her fiancé to the top of the donor list, past another man that had been waiting years for a heart. As a fan of the show, I couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief when Izzie (the intern) wasn’t fired and Seattle Grace didn’t lose their license as a teaching hospital. However, as I began re-watching the series I found myself viewing these events through PR-colored glasses, and there were a few bases they forgot to cover.
Transparency is key
In the healthcare industry it is vital that a business stays transparent to their audience. For entertainment’s sake, the hospital contained the Duquette disaster and was never made public – looking at it realistically, the hospital should have released a statement. By not addressing the issue, the hospital risked a huge scandal and could have potentially pegged themselves with a reputation of hiding information from the community. The lesson here: always be transparent.
Use the same message across all platforms
Consistency should go hand-in-hand with transparency. Every crisis is a delicate situation and should be handled as such. Do everything possible to maintain the reputation of the client, while still making the audience feel informed and cared for. The message needs to be controlled across every platform – media, face-to-face interaction, social media, etc. Had Seattle Grace released a statement, they should have spoken through one voice such as the chief of surgery or VP of Communications. By having an authority figure as the spokesperson for the hospital, it would show that the incident was being addressed in a consistent and transparent manner.
As soon as someone of authority caught wind of what Izzie did, a team should be assembled to figure out the facts and plan next steps. Silence is just as bad as “no comment.” It gives off the feeling that information is being withheld. In any crisis situation, you have to figure out all the facts and create a plan to move forward before the damage is done.
The more that I study public relations, the more I find myself applying it to things around me such as my favorite TV shows. The surgeons of Grey’s Anatomy may be gods of the scalpel, but they need the gods of PR to deal with some of the things they get into.