Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
A career limiting media interview is every executive's nightmare. Fortunately they rarely happen.
But this week’s interview with Caboolture Hospital’s acting executive director Keith Love may well be an exception.
Trying to dig his way out of a crisis over giving a newborn baby breast milk from the wrong mother, Mr Love blurted out confidential HIV test results live on radio – before the families involved had been informed.
The interview is excruciating, but mesmerising. It’s a bit like listening to a really dirty joke.
I felt appalled and wanted to block my ears, but I just had to get to the punchline.
But in fairness to Mr Love, he may not be completely to blame.
Scientific studies have repeatedly found that the brain struggles to function in times of severe stress. And it doesn’t get much more stressful than a novice fronting the media in the face of a crisis.
No amount of media training can replace common sense, but it can shore up your defences.
Knowing how a crisis will unfold, what sort of information you need to share, and doing realistic crisis practice interviews will help you handle the high stakes communication moments that come with the top jobs.
The reputational damage isn’t limited to Mr Love. The crisis, and Mr Love’s response, has raised serious questions about QLD Health which operates the hospital.
How you handle crisis communications is as important as how you resolve the crisis itself.
How can you avoid a 'Mr Love brain freeze'?
1. Equip your executives to face the media. Communication management, like people management and financial management, is a core leadership skill. If you are not being offered this training – demand it;
2. Have a crisis communication plan – agree who will speak and what they can and can’t say BEFORE a crisis hits;
3. Hone your media fitness – you wouldn’t try to run a marathon if you hadn’t exercised for yonks. Media is the same - you need to keep your media muscles buff with a regular workout because you never know when you’ll be seen naked.