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Mater Health Services - Healthcare Campaign of the Year

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Company: Mater Health Services, Brisbane, Australia
Company Description: Mater Health Services is a privately owned and operated, not-for-profit provider of healthcare and hospital services. Mater employs around 8,000 people in hospitals, pathology, health research and pharmacy businesses and provides healthcare services for some 500,000 people each year.
Nomination Category: Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Communications or PR Campaign/Program of the Year - Healthcare

Nomination Title: Mater Mothers in-utero surgery for spina bifida

Tell the story about this nominated campaign since 1 January 2017 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms.

The brief

On 23 July 2016, Mater surgeons performed the Australian first open fetal surgery on a baby with spina bifida. To date, Australian families seeking this procedure have had to travel overseas. Yet, one in every 2000 babies in Australia are born with spina bifida. A seven year trial in the US (MOMS) demonstrated clear benefits for babies who undergo fetal surgery, in comparison to surgery post-birth.

A PR plan was developed to highlight innovative surgeries such as Mater’s Australian first in-utero surgery for spina bifida, to position Mater Mothers’ Hospitals as Mater’s brand ‘hero’.

The business goal was to undertake five operations in the first twelve months (to July 2017), and sustain this awareness and interest in preceding years in order to maintain skillset and financial viability (appendix B: objectives).

The PR campaign surrounding the initial surgery in 2016 was evaluated as a success with news coverage reaching an audience of 6.8 million Australians and further publicised through social media, websites and EDMs.

The challenge from 1 January 2017 was to maintain this momentum, in order to secure five surgeries within the first twelve months and ensure the viability of the surgery into the future.

Research & execution

Research indicated the difficulty of changing the habits of maternal fetal medicine specialists and referring doctors. The key area of influence was to arm patients with information and therefore communication was targeted to reach the maximum number of Australian families (appendix A: research)

We continued in the implementation of our communication campaign to meet our objectives (appendix B: objectives) communicating directly with stakeholders and generating media coverage through online channels, in-depth news feature programs and through traditional news channels (See media coverage files attached).

A key accomplishment of the media campaign program was sharing the story of one of the families accessing the surgery on ABC’s Australian Story. This aired in early 2017 with a follow-up in May 2018. Three of the four spina bifida cases cited media coverage as having impacted their decision to access Mater. “If I didn’t see that Australian Story... we had enough information from the doctors… but seeing that was really reassuring, I felt really positive after watching it and it really helped me.”

Additional media coverage of proceeding cases resulted in 132 items reaching an audience of 2.9 million in Australia and New Zealand, with an ASR of $3.3 million.

Social media coverage had a reach of 229,166 with 18,452 post clicks. A New Zealand patient cited social media coverage impacting their decision to access Mater. Their doctor was not aware of the surgery and they did not have access to Australian media coverage. “I kept searching and Dr Glenn Gardener’s name popped up and I looked at the date−23 July 2016− Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane had performed the first fetal surgery in Australia and it was successful!”


As a result of the campaign, the business objective was met, securing five surgeries in twelve months, with Mater committing to offering the surgery into the future. The campaign bridged the gap in community needs, bringing about positive change in the key target audience. The campaign reached the Asia Pacific audience resulting in two cases from New Zealand. Lead surgeon Dr Gardener was a finalist for Queensland Australian of the Year 2018 for his work in bringing the surgery to Australia. The media outcomes reinforced Mater’s role in educating the community, not just referring doctors. All patients who accessed the surgery following the Australian-first cited news coverage, Australian Story coverage or social media in impacting their understanding and decision to access the surgery at Mater. See appendix C: measurement and evaluation for further detail.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief features and results of this nominated PR program since the beginning of 2017 (up to 150 words).

-Business goal achieved: Five cases secured in first year following surgery. Four cases have been performed since January 2017, with ten patients and more than 20 direct patient enquiries plus medical enquiries.
-Media coverage: Patient story highlighted on Australian Story in February 2017, with a follow-up story in May 2018. Additional media coverage of proceeding cases resulted in 132 media items reaching an audience of 2.9M.
-Lead surgeon Dr Gardener was a finalist for Queensland Australian of the Year 2018. The media team led the nomination, securing increased media coverage and awareness for the surgery.
-Maintained high interest in spina bifida cases on owned social media channels. 5632 reactions, comments and shares, 18452 post clicks and reach of 229,166 on Facebook.
-Media promotion of the surgery in New Zealand assisted two New Zealand families in accessing the surgery in Australia.