How Cleveland Clinic communicators, practitioners prep for the RNC

Some 15,000 journalists are expected in Cleveland for next week’s political convention. In light of recent public safety incidents, crisis communicators are ‘hoping the event is uneventful.’

When the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrated their NBA Championship this year, 1.3 million people partied downtown. The Republican National Convention comes to Cleveland next week, and a mere 50,000 people are expected.

That’s good news for Eileen Sheil, executive director for corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic. Sheil is hoping “the event is uneventful”; that would be a big win for dozens of hospital leaders, PR, marketing and social media managers—and health care providers—who have been getting ready for the gathering for months.

Before delegates and others arrive in town, Sheil and her colleagues have been fielding “around a thousand media requests” for interviews, logistics and details about what to expect next week.

In an interview with Health Care Communication News on Wednesday, Sheil said of the preparations: “We are constantly looking at the crisis plan. Our PR team has been collaborating with five or six smaller hospitals in the area, practicing multiple emergency preparedness drills for many months. Members of the communication and internal PR teams and leadership are involved, and we’ve established an incident command center.”

The incident command center is designed for “everyone to come together” and communicate using audio, visual and social media, she said.

Sheil said some 40 communications staffers at Cleveland Clinic will be ready to:

  • Craft messaging

  • Organize press conferences

  • Coordinate interviews and press activities

  • Execute live feeds and record videos

  • Monitor social media

A nifty new digital newsroom

One highlight for communicators at Cleveland Clinic will be the opportunity to show off its redesigned online newsroom. Video is a core component of the new technology.

“It will truly help journalists have access to real-time events and news. We have two videographers, producers and reporters who can post and share information with the public instantaneously,” Sheil said.

Sponsored media events are also part of the convention mix. Cleveland Clinic is collaborating with The Washington Post, Bloomberg and U.S. News and World Report. “We have space at the Global Center for Health Innnovations downtown,” said Sheil. Executives from Cleveland Clinic will be there for live broadcasts. Members of Sheil’s team, along with government relations staffers and event organizers, are expected to be at the venue as well.


Business as usual, kind of

Cleveland Clinic and nearby hospitals have stockpiled medical supplies, just in case. Sheil also said her facility is prepared to add 1,000 beds if needed.

“We have practiced numerous drills and have crisis plans in place. We have the capability for all of this but have never used it,” Sheil said.

Meanwhile, members of the communications department have been working with local emergency services personnel, and the Secret Service has been in touch. “The Secret Service will run everything and is in charge during the convention,” she said.

Many are concerned that protestors could get violent. reported this week:

Past rallies for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump have sparked scattered violence, sparking intense preparation at the Cleveland Clinic. “We know there’s probably going to be some public disturbance that will occur at the RNC,” [Dr. Robert] Wyllie said. “We have to be able to think in advance of how we’d be able to handle protesters who might need help, or police who might need assistance.”

Though Cleveland Clinic is one of the largest employers in Ohio, Sheil expects it will be “business as usual.” July is typically a busy month, she said, so there will be extra staff on hand, should an incident occur.

Downtown, Sheil said tents with trained medical personnel will be set up for the convention, similar to those used at the Cavaliers victory parade. “We treated people for dehydration, and a woman went into labor, but that was the extent of it,” she said.

Similar preparations are underway in Philadelphia, too. The Democratic National Convention will be held there in late July.

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Topics: PR

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