The Mumps Crisis From a PR Perspective

By Dylan Manderbach

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By now, it is no secret that Temple University has fallen victim to an extremely rare, outdated viral infection: the mumps. Currently, 67 students have either tested positive or been listed as probable for having mumps.

Temple University’s Director of Student and Employee Health Services, Mark Denys, sent out an initial email on February 28 informing students that “several Temple students have tested positive for mumps.” The email included tips and general information about the infection and what students could do to avoid it.

In an email sent to the student body on March 4, Denys recommended that students receive the full two-dose Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine if they were previously unvaccinated. Denys went on to encourage students who were previously vaccinated to receive a third booster dose from Temple University Student Health Services if they “have had close contact with someone symptomatic for the mumps.”

The latest email sent on March 13, provided new updates on students that have been infected with the virus. This email listed steps that Temple has taken and will continue to take with the mumps outbreak, and also mentioned new steps that they are taking to update the school’s immunization policies.

From a PR perspective, Temple has clearly executed many crisis communication tactics. First and foremost, the university has kept its publics informed about the situation. Confronting the issue head-on and providing updates as they become available has not been a problem for Temple. It is also important to note that the school has “remained human” despite the severity of the outbreak. They have acknowledged the situation, offered sincere advice/precautions and explained the steps that they will take to ensure that this does not happen again.

Well, what now?

Of course, the mumps crisis is not going to disappear for Temple University overnight. There is still new information being revealed daily, and it shows no signs of slowing down in the near future. What can the university do until then from a public relations viewpoint?

Remain transparent.

Transparency is key to any crisis. Letting the public know that your institution is transparent and willing to answer any questions regarding the situation builds a healthy amount of trust. What is there to hide? Be open with students, the media and the general public.

Avoid negative coverage.

Media coverage regarding the mumps outbreak at Temple will likely come with negative effects for the institution. To help the university avoid a tarnished reputation, the media should be informed of the positive measures Temple will take to make sure this situation never happens again. Reiterating that the institution will now require increased vaccinations in order for students to be enrolled could help maintain a positive image.  

Be prepared.

You never know what information could come out next. Take this opportunity to make sure the organization has an updated plan on how to deal with extreme crises. What can the institution do better next time? What have they done right in this situation? This is not the first crisis to happen and will certainly not be the last. Look at this incident as a learning experience.

Take action.

The phrase “actions speak louder than words” has never been more fitting. Put those immunization policies into place immediately, continue encouraging students to use campus health services and teach students how to navigate the infection. You’ve sent the email, now it’s time to make a visible change.

 

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