As a boy, Doug Levy was a fan of detective stories, but later in life he decided that healthcare professionals who are “disease detectives” are even better. This led him to a career that has included stints as both a healthcare communications professional and a healthcare journalist.

Along the way, Doug cultivated expertise in crisis management, helping major academic medical centers navigate the inevitable crises that occur. His first book, “The Communications Golden Hour: The Essential Guide to Public Information When Every Minute Counts,” was followed by “The Communications Handbook for Coronavirus.”

“From the many crises I’ve been involved in, I’ve seen that even if you don’t know the answer, what you say and do within the first hour of an emergency of any size frequently will determine what the ultimate outcome is,” Doug said.

Doug Levy with link to Healthcare Confidential podcast episode

Because those first 60 minutes are so critical, Doug urges every business and non-profit to plan in advance for the possibility of an emergency.

“Every entity, whether a mom and pop business all the way up to a global conglomerate, needs a crisis plan,” he said. “If you’re just starting to think about how to deal with a crisis while its underway, you’re too late.”

Regardless of the type or size of business entity, Doug says there are common elements to a crisis communication plan that must be included.

“Having clear lines of communication, knowing who needs to be in the room to make decisions, what resources you have and who needs to know what’s going on, should be done ahead of time,” he explained. “Once flames show up, bodies are in front of you or the news media is at the door, it’s kind of late and hard to catch up.”

Not responding effectively early on in the disaster can have long-lasting consequences for your brand.

“We’ve seen countless examples of organizations that are unprepared to respond to the public communications aspect of an emergency,” said Doug. “If you aren’t able to do that well, somebody else will fill in the gap, and they may not be on your side. If you don’t establish your authority very quickly, the story will be completely out of your control and that can have life and death consequences.”

Doug Levy shared his perspective on this week’s Healthcare Confidential podcast. Listen here or wherever you listen to podcasts.  

Connect with Doug Levy on social media. He’s on Facebook @DougLevyPR and Twitter @SFDoug. You can also subscribe to his almost-daily newsletter for Covid-19 updates. Subscribe at Douglevy.substack.com.