Communicating with the Media

A central role of a governing board is to advocate for the mission and vision of the organization within the community. Part of this often involves sharing appropriate information with the public regarding hospital and health system programs and board activities, which can help raise the organization’s profile and improve its public and media perception. This opportunity to “spread the good news,” however, should be balanced with the need to ensure information disseminated is accurate, balanced, and consistent. 

Be Familiar with Communications/Media Relation Policies

Board members should ensure they are familiar with any organizational communications and/or media relations policies and the restrictions they place on who can speak on behalf of the board and the healthcare organization. If a board member is unsure about his or her role or the organization’s policy is unclear, the member should not respond to a request for comment. Instead, the member should refer the request to the communications or media relations department.

What To Do When Making Public Comments

Most board members will not be authorized to speak to the media. In cases where a board member is authorized to provide comment on behalf of the board and/or healthcare organization, the board member can take these simple steps to accurately communicate the organization’s viewpoint and help minimize the potential for misrepresentation.

  • Take advantage of any media skills training offered by the hospital/health system communications team.
  • Use the opportunity to communicate important work being conducted by the hospital and the board.
  • Confer with the CEO and/or communication’s officer to ensure consistency with accepted positions and policies of the board.
  • Consider everything communicated publicly as “on the record” and adhere to any supplied talking points.
  • If asked a question that the board member doesn’t know the answer to or is uncomfortable answering, refer the interviewer to the organization’s CEO or designated media relations contact.
  • If interviewed by telephone, request a copy of the transcript for the organization’s records and request to review the draft media piece prior to publication.

A board member who is approached by the media, but is not authorized to speak on behalf of the board should:

  • Let the reporter know that he or she is not authorized to speak on behalf of the board and that the request will be forwarded to the appropriate contact within the organization.
  • The board member should obtain the reporter’s contact information and pass it on to either the board liaison, board chair, or CEO for follow up.

Be Aware of Social Media Policies

Board members should be aware of hospital and health system policies related to social media presence and use. Social media can be an excellent conduit for informing the community about projects and initiatives of the healthcare organization and work of the board. Publication and commentary via social media channels, however, carry similar obligations to communication via traditional forms of media and should be conducted in a professional and ethical manner.

Equally important, board members should also consider the board conflict of interest policy along with any other specified responsibilities when posting as a board member on social media sites.

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