When is the right – or wrong time – for your CEO to front the TV cameras in a crisis?

Published on

A month ago Fairfax and Four Corners asked Aveo CEO Geoff Grady to appear on television to answer allegations of ‘a litany of questionable business practices at the retirement village operator including churning of residents, fee gouging and misleading marketing promises’. Grady declined to appear.

Last week Opal CEO Gary Barnier appeared on the ABC TV’s 7.30 Report to face allegations of mistreated and neglected residents in Opal’s aged care homes.

As a marketing professional, what would your advice to your CEO in these circumstances be?

To our mind both CEOs did the right thing and here is why.

For Grady, Fairfax/Four Corners had been preparing their story for months. They provided Aveo with approximately 25 questions about five to seven working days before the program was due to go to air and most were about contracts and finance (which they answered in writing).

In these circumstances there were three certainties.

The program content was largely locked in (and signed off by the ABCs legal people) and so little of what Grady said would change things.

Arguing about finances and contracts relating to elderly, aggrieved residents when the company and its owners are positioned as making millions of dollars profit and being billionaires can only portray you as avaricious money merchants.

It is not possible to question the bona fides of resident complaints on finances and contracts because each individual resident is genuine in their belief of their own cause and to disagree or highlight the possible weaknesses in their claims is not showing respect. You will never look good in a public forum.

So while one might say the CEO should front up and be accountable, in these circumstances it is very likely a lose/lose situation.

The 7.30 Report/Opal situation was entirely different. The questions were not about money but about responsible care. Did Opal deliver the level of care expected or not?

Gary Barnier fronted and said Opal did not. Watch the program HERE.

These are the relevant transcripts:

ANNE CONNOLLY: Doctors recorded his death from acute kidney injury, sepsis and necrotic pressure sores.
He’d been at Opal for just 12 weeks.

GARY BARNIER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, OPAL AGED CARE: The gentleman presented with wounds to us.

ANNE CONNOLLY: These wounds?

GARY BARNIER: He’s presented with necrotic wounds. On the care documentation that I have seen, some of those wounds stayed the same, some slightly improved and others, frankly, got worse.

ANNE CONNOLLY: And do you think that your staff did enough for him?

GARY BARNIER: No, I don’t. I don’t think they did enough for him.


GARY BARNIER: We’ve got 6,000 residents in our care. I have looked after nearly 30,000 residents in the time I’ve worked in this business and the vast majority of times we do a very good job, and we deliver what people expect of us.

But there are times where we don’t hit the mark, and it’s not acceptable and I should stand up for it and I should be held accountable and I’m here for that. 

The residents and the families were acknowledged and respected. There was no point in further cross-examination of Barnier.

What would you have advised?