Andrew Touhy, Assistant Account Executive

When certain situations arise, a crisis is inevitable. The New York Times reported Oct. 25 that Canadian authorities alleged Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer killed eight elderly patients from 2007-2014. A horrific and shocking story indeed, but one that offers lessons to crisis professionals.

In a case like this in which revealing certain details will be restricted due to the criminal investigation, there is only so much a spokesperson can say in a statement. It is critical and crucial however, that a statement is issued to avoid speculation, leaders stick to that statement, and they tell it everywhere (release, social, etc). Executives in this case did that.

Following Wettlaufer’s arrest, Lee Griffi, spokesperson for Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes – where seven of the patients died – said the Home is cooperating with police, and the nurse left the home two and a half years ago. The issued statement read:

“Our highest priority is to continue to provide for the physical, social and spiritual needs of our residents, and that remains our focus,” Griffi said. “We deeply regret the additional grief and stress this is imposing on the families involved. We are determined to avoid compromising the police investigation in any way and are therefore unable to provide any additional comment at this time.”

In order to not make a bad situation worse, the responsibility of the home immediately following the crisis is to ensure the public that all patients and employees are safe. Second, while the statement promises a full cooperation with the authorities’ investigation, it does not admit guilt. It is paramount to lend reassurance to stakeholders that the inexcusable behavior of one individual does not represent the practices and policies of the organization. Separating your brand from the horrors of a single person is essential to regain the public’s trust.