Preparing a Crisis Communication Plan Helps Your Compounding Pharmacy Stay Ready
Going through a crisis situation can be an unpleasant and harrowing time at a compounding pharmacy. Maybe a tornado of media attention descended after a staff member made a mistake, or you were involved in an unrelated situation outside your control. If you were caught by surprise but weathered the storm or if you are fortunate enough to have never experienced a crisis situation at your pharmacy, now is not the time to rest on your laurels or thank your lucky stars. The best crisis communication plan is made when everything is calm and cemented before the next (or first) crisis situation happens.
A crisis communication plan should definitely include the actions you should take right away if a crisis arises, but the bulk of your planning should revolve around everything you can actually control—mainly, your team’s response and the preparedness level of your executives and staff.
An Effective Crisis Communication Plan Merges Preparation and Action
Do your research.
If you don’t work with a lawyer specializing in pharmaceuticals, do your research and identify one with good recommendations from other pharmacies or a good local reputation in your community. Then you can contact him or her in the event of a crisis. The same goes for a communications partner if you don’t have an in-house communications professional.
Prepare your talent.
Your spokesperson should understand his or her role, and any executives who might be speaking to the media should have media training to help them feel comfortable in front of the camera and practice working through talking points naturally.1
Yes, you should prepare some talking points ahead of time.
Talking points should, of course, be tailored to the specific situation when it happens, but you can get ahead by preparing talking points about your pharmacy. These should be items you want to consistently reinforce in the case of media attention, and can include aspects like your pharmacy’s history in the community, commitment to quality and potential details of your quality control process, your pharmacists’ pedigree and other easily digestible messages. Then, in the case of a crisis, add your talking points about that particular situation to your list and make sure your spokesperson and executives know how to touch on them without sounding robotic or rehearsed.2
Practice crisis communication response.
Take an honest look at your business. Even the absolute best compounding pharmacies have vulnerabilities and any one of them might result in a potential crisis. It pays to think of worst-case scenarios. The situation could have nothing to do with your pharmacy at all and suddenly you find yourself needing to decide how to handle a flurry of attention.
Perhaps a competitor recently came under fire for a mistake involving a process or a compound that you utilize successfully, but it is suddenly garnering negative attention. Or perhaps another compounding pharmacy has drawn undue negative criticism to the entire industry and your pharmacy is being painted unfairly with an uninformed brush.
Work with your team to identify your areas of vulnerability and come up with specific responses. For instance, in the case of overall bad publicity for compounding pharmacies, think of it as an opportunity to set the record straight and also educate people about compounding pharmacies. Come up with a list of talking points about the benefits of compounding for patients, the long history of compounding, its effectiveness when practiced by responsible professionals, and your quality control and safety measures.3
Create a playbook to assess each situation individually.
Not all crises are created equal. An unfortunate accident outside your front doors warrants a very different response than the actions of one of your employees resulting in something happening to a patient, for instance.
Think of your assessment tool as a flowchart to help identify the best response to each situation level. Ask questions to help you evaluate the relative seriousness of this event:
- Could this undermine the pharmacy’s credibility or reputation?
- Was there significant harm to a member of the community or our patients?
- Could this erode patient trust?
- What are our potential financial ramifications?
- What is our legal exposure?
- Was the situation due to negligence by one of our staff members?
- Will there be significant media attention? Can we guess how much and what tone?
Running through practice scenarios with your crisis communications team means that you won’t have to contact your attorney or PR firm for every little hiccup—you’ll have an in-house team prepared to handle all but the most egregious situations. It may seem tedious to spend time thinking of mistakes being made by phenomenal staff members or of potentially harming or endangering patients that we prioritize and care for above everything else. But preparing ahead of time for potential situations can help you have the best and most appropriate response, which can mean retaining patients’ goodwill, a strong reputation and loyal staff, allowing you to continue compounding medication to serve your patients and provide the highest level of care.
Pharmaceutica North America is a premier provider of high-quality bulk active pharmaceutical ingredients, unit-dose APIs and custom compounding kits. Contact us to learn more about how our products can help you provide the best possible patient care.
- “The Crisis Communications Handbook: What GM’s Mary Barra (and Every Leader) Needs to Know,” March 11, 2014, https://hbr.org/2014/03/the-crisis-communications-playbook-what-gms-mary-barra-and-every-leader-needs-to-know/ ↩
- “A crisis communication plan in healthcare is a priority. But it’s not urgent.” Sept. 11, 2012, http://www.foxgrp.com/blog/crisis-communication-plan-in-healthcare/ ↩
- “Creating a hospital crisis communication plan,” April 23, 2012, http://jarrardinc.com/2012/04/creating-a-hospital-crisis-communication-plan/ ↩