Case Study

Life Care Centers

March 2020
Life Care Center of Kirkland

Why we were brought on board

In our combined nine decades of work in crisis communications, the call that came in early March 2020 stands apart. If ever a company needed our services, it was Life Care Centers of America.

The Crisis

Life Care Center of Kirkland experienced the first known outbreak of COVID-19 in a skilled nursing facility in the United States. Thirty-six residents died within the first 10 days following the facility’s first confirmed positive test. Television news crews descended on the facility. In live reports from the parking lot family members told a national audience about their fear for loved ones inside the facility. No information was forthcoming from the facility. The images and stories were devastating.

Sound Counsel’s Tim Killian holds a press conference outside Life Care Centers of Kirkland, epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States

Our Response

Sound Counsel was retained near the end of the first week of the outbreak. We crafted clear, fact-based information about the unfolding crisis and served as Life Care’s primary spokesperson. We immediately began providing information through daily, in-person media briefings. We also solicited questions from media and family members, reporting back answers the next day in an empathetic and fully forthcoming manner.

Our efforts were successful in shifting the public focus away from the facility and back onto the virus itself. We had to balance patient privacy with public health. We had to rebut numerous mischaracterizations by governing agencies. We needed to communicate empathy along with clarity. Above all we had to be responsive and accurate to establish our credibility so that we were viewed as the main source of information about this crisis.

As the pandemic expanded beyond the initial outbreak in Kirkland, affecting many of Life Care’s 200 plus facilities across the country, Life Care retained Sound Counsel to assist its other facilities and company as a whole. Our efforts helped shine a light on the heroic efforts by Life Care to cope with this unprecedented pandemic, as reported by 60 Minutes and CNN.

Life Care Centers of America President Beecher Hunter summarized our work this way:

“When we were hit by COVID-19 at Kirkland and were immediately besieged by national, state and local media, we needed an on-the-ground representative. We are grateful for the work of Sound Counsel Crisis Communications. The way they build relationships with the media has been critical to mitigate the negative impact of many news stories about Life Care.”
Beecher Hunter

President, Life Care Centers of America