How the Harley Medical Group should have handled implant crisis

The worst thing for any brand regardless of size is for the media to report protesters at your offices or your products being criticised on health grounds.

In recent weeks there has been justifiable alarm following revelations that the now-closed French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP) filled its implants with industrial rather than medical silicone, which was initially designed for matresses.

The NHS claim that these is no evidence that they were riskier than others but said the NHS would replace any it had implanted.

While many have jumped on the health risks as a punishment of the vanities, 40,000 implants have been fitted in the UK, many for women who have had to have mastectomies for medical reasons, who now feel their health is again at risk because of these questionable fillings.

But whatever the reasons, the fact that this past weekend protesters began a march at the headquarters of the Harley Medical Group, which installed nearly 14,000 PIP implants, is ajust about the worst publicity a health brand can endure.

While it was good to see Chairman Mel Braham fronting up to speak to the media, when some would misguidedly stay silent, his messaging needs a lot of work.

In terms of communication, a brand must not be seen to have put profits ahead of people.

Perrier did it a few years ago after contamination of a tiny fraction of its bottles and that's why you see San Pellegrino instead of Perrier in most restaurants and bars these days.

Braham does not accept or recognise that as a provider, his company have a part to play in this health crisis and that simply passing the buck to the NHS is doing increasing damage to his brand. 

It may well be the case that the NHS has a case to answer and despite a seven figure turnover, he may well be telling the truth when he says that the Harley Medical Group would go bust if it was to change the implants for all its patients pro bono.

While he may indeed feel it is the 'moral responsibility' of the NHS, the interveiws he has done for television give the impression that protecting his company and attacking the NHS are his priorities.

He even makes the point that he knew about the problem in March 2010, way before it became a big issue.

If he had suggested that Harley Medical Group would do all it can to help its patients and urge the NHS to meet to discuss a viable solution, he would not have compromised his brand nor be seen to be thinking of profits ahead of patients.

As it is, the breast implant crisis will forever now be linked to his company and potential patients will undoubtedly think twice before considering being treated at his once-prestigious clinic.