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PR is “An Organisation’s Managed Communications Behaviour’’ (Grunig 1997)

Organisation:  Medical Perspective
Audience: (CEO/MD, Stakeholders, Employees, Investors)
BY: Ifedayo Akinwalere
+234 8033936940
The role of public Relations is to ensure the institution’s reputation is protected and enhanced, while maximizing opportunities to demonstrate organization’s desired leadership position. The objective of public relations is to achieve true dialogue, consent, mutual understanding, and harmony in a complete openness way. Public Relations is an integral of good management but can only make its full contribution if practitioners have a comprehensive base of knowledge and resources.

Key Concepts
Organization Communication Behaviour refers to actions organisation does with verbal and non verbal communication through corporate affairs department which they can practice and improve over time.
Relationship between Communication and the Medical Profession
According to Sendin (2010), medical profession as an occupation aimed at protecting, promoting and restoring good health with a focus of identifying, diagnosing and treating illnesses using scientific and highly specialised knowledge. He also referred to the medical profession as an occupation where caring for patients is the priority. Health workers can only accomplish adequate care for patient with effective communication among management, the medical workers and the patient.

Communication plays a vital role in medical profession as it fosters cordial relationship between the patient and the medical practitioners in order to build a sustainable, mutual, long-lasting, patient-centred relationship based on trust. It enables the healthcare provider to create rapport with the patient and gain his confidence. It promotes effective communication which (Moh & Omer, 2015) & (Hawkeen, 2005) described as a tool for mutual understanding. It also offers opportunity of breaking news, counseling, and handover of patients’ management amongst healthcare providers. 

The primary responsibilities of Public relation officer in health institution include interpreting public opinion to management by gathering information about employees and patients attitudes; making management aware of major trends and forces in the scientific, political, social and economic spheres of life; calling management’s attention to any aspect of operation which may bear seriously upon the relationship of the organisation with the public; and making suggestions to management for the effective handling of such relationship.

The receivers of information in health sector (public, patients, stakeholders, employees, investors) must clearly understand the health worker’s message. Public relation activities would ensure a smooth flow of information between the hospital authorities or management and the patients and their immediate family members or relatives. 

For example, public relations experts from a hospital in a rural area must plan and design their activities in the local language for patients to interpret and respond well. This can be achieved through bulletin board information, newsletters, films and slide presentations. If the hospital authorities interact in a language not understood by the patients, no real communication takes place and eventually the effect of public relation activities get nullified.

The needs of the target audience (patient) must be understood well. Remember public relation activities are designed to position an organization in the best light. This happens only when the target audiences are fully satisfied with its services/products. Understand what your patients expect from you to design public relations activities for the maximum and desired impact. Make sure your client understand what you intend to communicate.

The message/information needs to create an impact in the minds of patients for an effective brand positioning. Communication needs to have a strong influence on the target patients for them to remain loyal towards the hospital.
Among the communication behaviours public relations can manage for health institution to attain its desired goals and objectives are: listening, making clarifying statements, dialogue, offering feedback, among others.
Listening: Public relations unit listen to hear and make sense of what patients and staffs are saying. This can be achieved by monitoring information of different departments, use good, active non-verbal behaviours like looking at patients and staff when they speak, nodding of head when someone agrees with something, and sitting forward to show involvement.

 Making clarifying statements: Public relations unit is up to the task of offering an explanation of a concept or issue this institution is trying to understand. Public opinion can be like rumours whose origins are difficult to trace and whose spread is difficult to check. Sometimes, ill-disposed opinions arise because of ignorance and lack of information. It may be your fault that you have never told them true story. This, of course, is what a great deal of PR is all about making sure that the facts of your business and activities are well known. 

The major advantage of publication is their ability to deliver specific and detailed information to narrowly defined target publics. Some of the tools that can be employed by PR to accomplish the stated task are , newsletters,            journals, supplemental publication such as  pamphlets ,brochure, manuals and books, letters, feature articles, advertorial, bulletin board, press release, the grapevine, meetings, video, film and slide presentations among others.

When an issue involves both the internal and external publics or in a situation where the institution is poised to project its image and increase reputation, the public relation department can employ press conference, press releases, press statement, information kit, exclusive story, press interview, featuring of Chief executive (CEO) on personality broadcast interview. These are two –way method of communication: The reporter seeks information; the institution wants to get the information out to the public. 

 Dialogue: The role of public relations expert becomes critical under any kind of crisis or unfavourable circumstance. It is the role of the public relations manager to save the reputation of his/her organization. He needs to be on his toes to face questions from the media/public and handle all the criticism with a smile. It is the public relations manager’s role to take immediate charge of any adverse situation and turn negative situations also into the company’s favour.

Crisis may occur in the form of natural disaster or may be as a result of mismanagement of affairs. Although crisis may be violent or non-violent, it definitely causes disruption of well-laid plans and goals. In this case, it is necessary for PR to invite to round table the parties involved and engage them in conversation and if the conversation drifts, the PR brings the group back onto task until the matter is resolved. Whenever there is disagreement within or without organisation, PR finds middle ground that satisfies everyone. PR can call patients to meeting on issue(s) and seek for their opinion on issue at stake. Communication is effective when members of an organisation share information with each other and all parties involved are relatively clear about what this information means. Dialogue can be through the media or any of the above tools. Meetings among stakeholders, patients and employees can be used to communicate dialogue.

Feedback: To achieve success, all public relations activity must be based on truth and full information and be carried out on a continuing basis. It is about communicating between the institution and its various publics, getting feedback and respond to feedback in such a way that both the institution and its publics benefit from the outcome. These reviews and feedbacks (positive or negative) help an organization to grow to its full potential. Positive and negative feedback are to be taken seriously and necessary changes are incorporated in the system to meet the expectations of the consumers/clients. The sender (hospital) must ensure that the patients interpret the information correctly and also give necessary feedbacks and reviews. Bulletin boards, the grapevine, meetings, press release, press statement among others are veritable tools through which PR can achieve feedback in organisation.

Public Relations and Media

Public relations can motivate the press/newsmen by arranging media tour for them. Another important tool to accomplish positive publication is regular parley with newsmen by the management. This could come in various shapes:  Breakfast with the CEO, luncheon with editors among others. The purpose of this parley may not necessarily be news dissemination but that of establishing rapport with people who will always write about you and your organisation.

Media are advocate for the challenger. Public relations are the only means available to provide the countervailing force. It is not, as some critics respond, an attempt to control information. It actually adds to the supply facts, opinions and interpretations from which the public shapes its own conclusions.  Public relations officers are professionally equipped to deal with the press.
Through the media, PR is also responsible for devising means of constantly being in the mind of the people or counter negative publication. In this case, press releases, facility tour, advertorial, feature articles and others as mentioned above can be utilized to effectively disseminate information about the activities of the institution.

Based on the notions of a free and independent press, as well as the principles of sound public relations practice, season practitioners according to Cutlip Center and Brown (2000: 333) in Onabajo (2005:102) offer the following guideline for working with the press:
  1. Talk with the view point of the public’s interest, not the organisation.
  2. B. The spokesperson should avoid talking ‘off the record’, because such statement may end up being published without the source.
  3. C. State the most important part at the beginning. The first-level response to a reporter’s question is a short summary of newsworthy announcement.
  4. D. Do not argue with a reporter or lose your cool. Understand that journalists seek an interesting story and will go to great lengths to get the story.
  5. E. If a question contains offensive language, do not repeat them or even try to deny them.
  6. F. If a reporter asks a direct question, give an equally direct answer. Feeling the pressure to say something more than what is called for by a question, is a common error.
  7. G. Prepare for a press interview anticipating what question that may likely be asked so that answer could be found for them. 
  8. H. Tell the truth even if it hurts, the media seldom miss bad news.
  9. I. Do not call a press conference unless you have what reporters consider as news.

Communication is an integral aspect of the medical profession that is constantly employed in every facet of the profession. So little or nothing would be gained in the event of communication breakdown, PR unit of healthcare providers must ensure that they adopt the effective communication to suit the environment or circumstance they may be as they discharge their duties on daily basis. 

Communications Management is the systematic planning, implementing, monitoring, and revision of all the channels of communication within an organization, and between organizations; it also includes the organization and dissemination of new communication directives connected with an organization. Aspects of communications management include developing corporate communication strategies, designing internal and external communications directives, and managing the flow of information, including online communication.

Health institutions are hereby advised to create department for public relations in health institutions to liaise between health workers, the patients and the rest of the public. This will help to increase patronage and improve efficiency.

Hawken, S. J. (2005).Good communication skills: benefits for doctors and patients. New
Zealand Family Physician, 32 (3), 185-189.
Onabajo, O. (2005). Essentials of Media Relations. Lagos: Concept Publication Limited.
Sendin, J. J. (2010). Definicion de profesion medica a profesionalismo medico: Educacion
medica 132(2010):63-66.
Stewart, M.A. (1995). Effective physician patient communication and Health outcomes: A
Review.CMAJ: Canadian medical association journal 152 (9): 1423-1433.

PR is “An Organisation’s Managed Communications Behaviour’’ (Grunig 1997) PR is “An Organisation’s Managed Communications Behaviour’’ (Grunig 1997) Reviewed by IFEDAYO AKINWALERE on 7:13:00 am Rating: 5