Monday, July 28

Eroding Brands: Credibility Gaps

Erosion can be caused by many factors, including manmade. Trampling, for example, can reduce vegetation until the topsoil is removed. Then, as the underlining rock bed is exposed, pathways turn into gullies until they become impassable.

Credibility behaves much the same way. Once admired brands can become unsightly, devalued, and destroyed over time.

A few months ago, we began tracking how the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada mishandled its crisis communication plan shortly after it became responsible for the largest hepatitis C scare in the history of the country.

There is no more Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

Instead, a quick search on the Internet will redirect you to a special section of the Southern Nevada Health District’s site, which provides some details about the ongoing
hepatitis C investigation and recommends that former patients receive testing for hepatitis C as well as hepatitis B and HIV.

It didn't happen overnight. As bad as the initial crisis was, it was an ongoing communication lapse that widened the gap. And as the path between the initial story was tread upon over and over again — the initial denial, the lack of empathy in a newspaper ad, the refusal to comment on evidence, and the alleged plans of the primary owner to leave the country — the center's credibility eroded until there was nothing left to believe.

The latest damage? One of the patients was proven to be a known carrier of hepatitis C. That means both the health care provider and the patient knew the virus was in the patient's bloodstream and yet, the flawed and unsafe procedures at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada were allowed to continue, which is why the infection was spread to others.

The gap — an "isolated incident" as originally suggested by the practice and knowingly following unsafe procedures even while treating a carrier of hepatitis C — is now impassable.

There is little chance Francis Allen will be re-elected.

While unrelated, there is another story in southern Nevada that continues to leave some people treading the same ground. A few weeks ago, Nevada State Assemblywoman Francis Allen was arrested and charged with felony domestic violence after her husband had filed a police report stating that she stabbed him with a steak knife.

He quickly recanted the report after learning Allen would be charged with a felony. While the case was dismissed, prosecutors are reportedly seeking a grand jury indictment.

A few of my neighbors asked why the alleged, now recanted, story had convinced so many insiders that Allen cannot be re-elected. Easy.

The stabbing isn't the first phase of erosion. It's one of the last phases. The odd stabbing story might have garnered sympathy on its own, but not when paired with a questionable voting record, numerous ethics complaints filed against her since 2002, and campaign messages that don't match her actions while in office. Even her Photoshopped campaign photo bears little resemble to her likeness or mug shot for that matter.

So the problem isn't the stabbing story as much as it is that voters are tired of treading the same ground over and over again. It's virtually impassible anymore, except to new residents who might believe the myth contained in her campaign literature.

Only the first few stages of erosion seem convenient.

It’s something to keep in mind when it comes to crisis communication, even in social media. There is seldom a single catastrophe or issue or disagreement that will create a credibility gap (even though some people act like it). It's all those future issues that tend to pile up.

Ask President Bill Clinton. Hot button topics like Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky seem easy to escape. Some people even said it made him more human. The constant critiques about him during his wife's campaign proved much more problematic.

One CNN poll suggested his approval rating among Democrats had dropped 9 percent from 60 percent in the short course of one year. It's the price he paid for being too political while on the campaign trail, some say. It's the widening of a credibility gap, I might say.



Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago, my mother was set to have full colonoscopy to determine a health problem. However, when I discovered that the physician was one of the owners of the Endoscopy Center, I immediately has the procedure canceled and rescheduled with another physician with absolutely not ties to ECSN.

I don't regret making that call for a nano-second because my mom's life is extremely important to me.

Honestly, I don't know if "all the PR in the world" could have me from making that decision. When lives are on the line and lawyers are called in, things can get pretty messed up and, well, everyone loses but esp. those who are innocent.

Rich on 8/6/08, 1:30 PM said...

Hi Bonnie,

I think you made the right decision. I don't think any public relations can help them now not did I then.

There was a small chance to reserve the damage, but only if they were willing to accept full accountability on the front end and isolate where/who was responsible for the questionable procedures.

They did not. And that was their one chance.

I hope you have been able to find your mom another doctor and wish you both the best.



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