During a Crisis, Focus First on Communicating With Internal Stakeholders
Among the many adjustments hospital and health system marketers have made during the coronavirus pandemic is placing a greater emphasis on internal communications. In many cases, the shift has been dramatic.
Alan Shoebridge, director of marketing and communication at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SVMHS) in west-central California, estimates that from the spring of 2020 through the winter of 2021 he devoted upward of 75 percent of his time to COVID-19-related internal communications, with his normal duties vying for the remainder of his time.
“Once the pandemic became a national emergency and our region started seeing a large number of cases, I had to quickly pivot and devote most of my time to pandemic communications to health system leaders, employees, and medical staff physicians,” says Shoebridge.
“Obviously, COVID took precedence over everything during that time. For me and my staff, the priority became providing accurate information about the situation as quickly as possible to the SVMHS team, and then to our patients and community.”
In a crisis like the pandemic, Shoebridge emphasizes that it’s vital to communicate to internal audiences first. “From frontline clinicians to staff throughout the organization, we knew how important it was to deliver the latest national, state, and local policy and response news to them as fast as possible.
“We wanted to make sure they felt like they were hearing the information they needed to know directly from SVMHS leadership. The last thing you want to happen is to have internal audiences learn about important developments impacting your organization from the TV news, patients, or the community. That can really undermine your credibility with them, so we placed a premium on communicating internally with frequency using a variety of different channels,” he notes.
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