From scary to celebrated. How one health service changed the narrative.

Second Brain

Maryborough District Health Service

Visibility Co partnered with Maryborough District Health Service as they rolled out a $100 million transformation and tackled a reputational crisis. 

The context

Visibility Co partnered with Maryborough District Health Service as they rolled out a $100 million transformation and tackled a reputational crisis. 

Services provided by Visibility Co:

  • Crisis communications
  • Strategic planning support for the executive
  • Creating a two-year communications strategy
  • Support with building an internal communications team
  • Mentoring for the communications manager
  • Strategic advice on campaigns including media strategy, content advisory and upskilling key members of the team
  • Capability building and coaching for the executive on strategy, organisational communications, personal visibility and leadership
  • Training and mentoring the board with communications 
  • Designing and facilitating executive and board retreats
  • Mentoring and guidance for the chief executive 

The challenge

In 2021, Maryborough District Health Service (MDHS) reached out to Visibility Co for support in crisis communication challenges.

Press headlines referred to the health service as “Scaryborough”, after problems in its maternity unit and a resultant media investigation. The new CEO, Nickola Allan, and her executive team had done deep work turning the organisation around and securing $100m in funding to build a new hospital. They knew the narrative needed to shift to reflect these important changes, but they didn’t have the individual or internal capabilities to do it. 

Nickola Allan, MDHS CEO, says, "With their specialist offer, Visibility Co was the perfect fit.” 

Julia May, Visibility Co-Founder, recalls the many challenges the service faced.  “At the time, MDHS were managing a $100m hospital build, a new strategy, negative media stories, COVID challenges, workforce pressures, regional issues, and a state election. All while trying to run a busy hospital and health service. It was overwhelming, but we saw immediately how we could help."

The engagement   

For the past two years, Visibility Co has worked with MDHS. The work addressed important aspects across leadership, strategy, communications and capability development for the executive, staff and board. It also involved bringing in specialist partners in human-centred design, social media training, crisis communications and media relations.

Visibility Co worked closely and supportively with the team, sharing a range of tools and methods to help the organisation clarify and realise its goals. 

Nickola Allan reflects, “The process was enlightening and challenging in a positive way. The Visibility team is open, non-judgmental and keeps everyone grounded. They’re great at discerning strategy from mere excitement. They model vulnerability and are truly invested.”

Strategic storytelling was key to the service’s desired success. 

But, before this could happen, Visibility Co had to change perceptions around visibility. They had to educate the MDHS team about the role of visibility for purpose.  

The MDHS team learned to share stories that aligned with their vision proactively. This in turn drove the recruitment of high-calibre staff, regional partnerships, high-level engagement from government stakeholders, awards, additional funding and positive feedback from the community, staff and media. 

David Edwards, Deputy CEO, explains, “We realised we could change our narrative in the community. Empowering our staff, volunteers, and community to be a voice, telling our stories.”

The results 

Visibility Co played a pivotal role in helping MDHS turn around the narrative. 

MDHS moved from defending its reputation to celebrating its achievements. This has changed perceptions inside and outside of the organisation. Their new model of maternity care has been celebrated as “gold standard” in the same media outlet that previously vilified them. 

Since then, MDHS has been able to attract more highly qualified staff. For the past two years running they’ve been shortlisted in the Victorian Public Healthcare Awards - for their contribution to maternity services and women’s healthcare. 

“Our communication is way more powerful. The feedback we're getting is that our stories are resonating. Maryborough is now viewed as an exciting, innovative, and interesting place to work." 

Maryborough District Health Service

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