Secure managers successfully handle media hype

“Media hype is usually sparked with there having been a political decision regarding reorganisation, such as a decision to merge units.“ ”The consequences are that strong professional groups within the organisation go to the media,” says Lotta Dellve, Professor of Health Sciences at the University of Borås.

The project is funded by AFA Insurance, the research group consists of registered psychologist and doctoral student Maria Wramsten Wilmar, registered psychologist Christian Jacobsson at the Department of Psychology at the University of Gothenburg, Gunnar Ahlborg Jr., MD and Docent in Occupational Medicine as well as Director at the Institute of Stress Medicine (ISM) in Region Västra Götaland, and Professor Lotta Dellve at the University of Borås and KTH Royal Institute of Technology (project leader).

Red in the face, palpitations and difficulty speaking about what has happened - even several years after the hype. These are some examples of what Lotta Dellve and her research group encountered when they interviewed 45 managers in the health care organisation from across the country regarding their experiences of being scrutinised by the media.
“There is a sense of being set upon and the attack is of a personal nature, not being able to defend oneself either within their workplace or against the media,” says Lotta Dellve, who has led the project.

The aim was to gain a deeper understanding of how managers are affected by personally being the focus of the media, how to prevent negative situations and the nature of the support needed.
The researchers also sent out a survey to all heads of administration in the country within health or social care.

“80 per cent of the managers face critical scrutiny by the media at least once a year.“ ”And half of them suffer from symptoms of stress,” she says.

5 tips for reducing insecurities and personal focus:
- Media attention is a concern for the management team.  Alternate who talks to the media to avoid the personation of questions.
- Develop a media strategy that supports a factual description of the operations in the media: base it on openness and an understanding of media processes.
- Have information about the operation's mission, goals and results already prepared and available, for example, on the website.
- Take advantage of the expertise of the operation's communications managers before, during and after meeting with the media.
- Meet with the media: be available, respond quickly but also give yourself time to investigate the issues.

The researchers observed the importance of having a media strategy, it provides a sense of security. This was because the managers handled the media in different ways. Some could have a card in their pocket with, for example, the type of questions they are able to answer, while others had not even thought about having a strategy.
“Some had more reactive strategies that were not so good and which could also be developed after unpleasant encounters with the media.“ ”For example, they chose not to answer when they recognised the number and they knew which journalist it was,” says Lotta Dellve.

The research project resulted in the report Ledarskap i vården: att möta media och undvika personfokuserade drev [Leadership in health care: to face the media and avoid person-focused hype]. The book can be used as a handbook for managers within health care. It contains, among other things, examples of what a media strategy might look like. But a media strategy is not the only solution. The organisations also need management teams which support each other and think in the “we” form. In addition, cooperation with the communications department needs to be developed.
“With secure organisations, functioning management teams and open communication, it does not need to be so person-focused,” says Lotta Dellve.

Text: Anna Kjellsson

Illustration: Annika Carlsson