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Silence is not an option: How to handle a crisis comms issue in health tech

Building a reputation in health tech can take decades, yet it can be undone by a single news story. Often, crisis planning doesn’t reach the top of a company’s agenda until it becomes a dire necessity. As technology is now fundamental to healthcare delivery, the risks extend far beyond operational disruption. Data breaches, product failures, and system outages could potentially be a matter of life and death.


Here’s 7 essential tips to get you ready for what could be the most challenging day of your career.

  1. Create your playbook

Having a playbook helps to remove some of the panic and bring calm to an already difficult situation. Your playbook should outline the response process for team members, define roles and responsibilities, list possible scenarios, provide an escalation checklist, and include stakeholder mapping covering legal and HR. It should also distinguish between a risk and a crisis. Consider having a holding statement ready to issue to the team to ensure no one speaks to the press prematurely.

  1. Know your media inside out

No interview is the same. An ambush or doorstep interview by a national outlet can be deeply intimidating, often lasting just seconds and potentially leading to high emotion and even unintended aggression. On the other hand, a planned trade interview, such as with HSJ or Digital Health, can be lengthy and highly detailed, leaving you feeling equally unprepared. Understanding the media outlet and the journalist’s style (passive, investigative, antagonistic, generalist, specialist) can help you decide whether to engage in the interview and how to prepare.

  1. Get support and get ready

Ideally, you will have undergone crisis communications media training and just need a refresher. A good agency should create a real-life scenario to help you prepare (for example, at Silver Buck, we might unexpectedly approach you with a large camera to simulate an ambush). You should rehearse answering difficult questions, being taken off topic multiple times, and knowing how to respond when you’re not able to finish your point. Remember, nothing is ever truly off the record.

  1. Get your key messages in before it’s too late

In live TV or radio, you can be cut off at any moment, so it’s important to communicate your key messages quickly and succinctly. With prerecorded and print/online media, you’ll have more opportunities to integrate them, but it’s ultimately up to the journalists what they use. A few key tips:

  • Don’t waste time giving background or a sales pitch.
  • Have three key messages prepared that you must convey.
  • Use the Acknowledge, Contain, Empathise (ACE) strategy. Acknowledgment shows you understand the importance of the crisis and providing clear information helps contain it and prevent rumours. Meanwhile, showing empathy and apologising, if necessary, displays humility and responsibility—qualities increasingly expected in today’s leaders.
  1. Take control of the conversation

Being able to steer the conversation is key to a successful crisis communications response. Techniques like bridging allow you to move the conversation away from negative or unhelpful questions, reintroduce your key messages, and shift it towards your agenda. Common phrases used in political interviews include “That’s an important point, but it’s also essential to remember that…” or “Before I address that, let me first emphasise…”

Avoid saying ‘no comment,’ as it typically fosters speculation and suspicion and lets others control your narrative. Even in unexpected situations like doorstepping at health tech events, keeping responses simple and concise is more effective.

  1. Think beyond words – Body language and background

On TV, everything is exaggerated, body language can be as important as what you say – a slight sway in your chair can appear nervous, and looking around can make you seem disinterested. Ensure your body language conveys confidence: sit or stand firmly, look directly into the camera, and maintain your focus. Remember, even radio interviews might have a webcam.

Be mindful of your physical appearance—avoid black and white or fussy patterns on TV as they can be distracting. Also, consider what’s visible in your background; remove any potentially embarrassing items, ensure your bookshelf is appropriate, and make sure there are no pets or children that could distract you or the audience from your message.

  1. Repair and rebuild

Usually, a crisis dominates a 24-hour news cycle unless it evolves with new information. It’s crucial to continue monitoring media and sentiment across social platforms to gauge where and how you need to rebuild. Apologising meaningfully is just the beginning. Commit to credible change and show what you are doing to improve patient safety and generate positive stories to balance out any negative coverage.

If you’re feeling anxious about the potential of a crisis in health tech, Silver Buck runs virtual or face to face workshops to get you and your team prepared, get in touch with