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By Rebecca Manley, Consultant

Earlier this week a Brisbane radio show’s listeners were told of a baby’s test results before the parents, prompting outrage at the hospital involved for their seemingly peculiar sense of priorities.

In a bizarre interview with Brisbane’s 4BC radio regarding an earlier incident where a three-week-old boy was undergoing tests for HIV after he was given the wrong bottle by a nurse, the hospital’s Acting Executive Director revealed “…the results are all clear. We will be communicating it officially immediately.”

4BC radio host Patrick Condren rightly put the interview on hold and encouraged the hospital Director to go and tell the baby boy’s worried parents.

The original case of the bottle swap was an unfortunate incident that the hospital seemed to be handling as well as could be expected.

Accidents do happen. By accepting blame and making it clear they were taking steps to ensure such mistakes could never again be repeated, they had shifted the public reaction from anger and resentment towards the hospital itself, to sympathy and concern for the baby.

A week into the saga and the hospital had the news we’d all been waiting for. The titbit of information that would ease all of our concerns, but more importantly, it was the news the parents of the new-born child had desperately been praying for night-after-night.

The results are all clear.

And who did they tell first? The media.

It was the news with the potential to make us all sigh with relief. It would put the hospital’s crisis to bed, making it all nothing but a PR nightmare of days past – if only they’d told the parents first.

The child's father later told the radio program the hospital's handling of the situation had been like a "comedy of errors''. “Obviously it was no laughing matter for us," he said.

Instead, a week on and the hospital is still making the headlines for their bottle mix-up with a new focus on their inept message delivery. They’re not laughing either.

It’s another example of the importance of not only getting your message right when you inevitably face a communications crisis, but of how critical it is to perfect your timing and delivery. Even good news delivered poorly can easily backfire.

To ensure your get your message, delivery and timing right, whether you’ve got good news or bad to communicate, contact the SAS Group’s specialists.

The SAS Group is your trusted partner for government, media and corporate engagement.

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