This is a guest post from Jessica Levco, Ragan's healthcare editor.
By now, you've heard about the shooting at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
And as a communicator, you're curious to see how the institution responded. The hospital responded with this news release on the website: Update on Shooting at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
That headline gets right to the point. But take a look at what's being said at Johns Hopkins University. If you look at the news release section on the website, you'll see this headline:
"Statement on the resolution of an incident at Johns Hopkins Hospital."
Scratching your head?
So were we.
Surely, someone from the legal team wrote this. Or maybe the da Vinci robot.
But it turns out that it was written by Dennis O'Shea, the executive director of communications and public affairs at the Johns Hopkins University.
He defended his title choice.
"Decisions like that are made in the context in which 50,000 things are happening at once," O'Shea says. "We wanted to be as neutrally descriptive as possible."
Well, that was achieved.
It's conservative. It's fair. It's safe.
But what's the point of writing a headline if you're not saying anything? This headline was so generic; we imagined that it could work for any emergency scenario.
But O'Shea says he wants people to concentrate on what the president is saying, not the headline.
"We wanted the message to speak for itself," O'Shea says.
We kept reading. We liked what the president had to say. It was warm, personal and gave details about what happened.
Those who were directly involved did what they needed to do, calmly and ably. Those who were not directly involved kept on doing what they are there to do: The hospital remained in operation. Patients were taken care of. Faculty taught, students learned, staff did their critical work in support of the Johns Hopkins mission. I am grateful to you all.
It's just too bad the message and the headline didn't match up.
We wouldn't recommend that the institution take a cue from newspaper headlines, "Johns Hopkins Shooting Turns Prestigious Hospital into Crime Scene" or "Johns Hopkins Shooting Draws Comparisons to 'Grey's Anatomy' Finale," but we thought the Johns Hopkins University headline should've told the reader something.
Here are a few examples:
How Johns Hopkins Hospital is handling the shooting
Johns Hopkins Hospital response to the shooting
Our response to the shooting at Johns Hopkins Hospital
What we want you to know about the shooting
Johns Hopkins Hospital responds to shooting
"Yesterday (Thursday), we were going 100 miles an hour," O'Shea says. "But sitting here 24 hours, I might've said something like, 'Statement from President Daniels,' but even after our discussion, I'm not in the mood to second-guess it."
We can only imagine how difficult Thursday was for O'Shea and his team. And we're grateful he had a few minutes to talk to us about a headline.