Putting out PR fires
I recently discovered that patients were vaccinated with expired vaccines. We pulled the vaccines out of use immediately and called clients, but what can I do to calm the commotion?
Q I recently discovered that patients were vaccinated with expired vaccines. We pulled the vaccines out of use immediately and called clients, but what can I do to calm the commotion?
"Anyone can make a mistake, but fires can flare up and potentially cause a public relations crisis for your practice," says Dr. Joel Parker, president of Professional Business Solutions in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dr. Parker offers these basic tips:
- Communicate openly, he says, even if that goes against your initial reflex. You want clients to have a clear understanding of what's happening. Don't leave anything to their imaginations. "People will make up all kinds of falsehoods to fill in the blanks," he says. And don't try to cover things up. "Always be up-front and truthful, and act in a way that's caring and in the best interest of the pet. Don't beg for your clients' forgiveness, and don't give away extra services for free." Here's an example of a letter you might send to clients explaining the situation:
Dr. Joel Parker
Dear Mrs. Jones,
As part of our ongoing quality assurance checks at ABC Animal Hospital, it has come to our attention that certain patients were vaccinated with a vaccine that slipped over its expiration date. Vaccines have a shelf life. Although this poses no immediate threat to your pet's health, the effectiveness of the vaccine may be diminished in the long run and could expose your pet to the risk of infectious diseases. We will be contacting you to arrange a time to bring in your pet to be vaccinated with the proper vaccine at no charge. Please feel free to call us if you have any questions or concerns.
- "Create a firm policy to detect—and thereafter prevent—the problem from recurring," says Dr. Parker.
- Finally, move on. "You're a professional," he says. "Look forward. And make sure your community knows about the great things you're doing on a regular basis. This lays the foundation for a solid image in your community."