Was the Kate Middleton Prank Call Tragedy Avoidable?

In a very public attempt at damage control, the Australian radio station behind the prank call to Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s hospital has issued an apology, suspended the DJs involved, and now looks to take further steps to rescue its reputation.

While we hesitate to draw a line between the call and the subsequent suicide of the nurse/receptionist who answered it, the station has also agreed to donate all advertising profits from now until the end of the year to the woman’s family (according to a statement, the donation will amount to at least $500,000). While this offer is incredibly generous, we have to say that it all feels like “too little, too late.”

Now Australian PR man Lyall Mercer of Mercer PR weighs in, writing that both the station and the hospital should have been able to foresee the risks of their actions. First, he thinks that the hospital, knowing that any security breach would attract widespread attention, should have developed specific policies “to protect the world’s most famous people”.

We’re not quite sure we agree with that sentiment because the hospital is a public health facility, but we certainly do believe that producers at the station “should have read the future better”, because “even if the prank ‘succeeded’, there was still the real possibility of a nasty public backlash due to the fact that they called a hospital”.

According to The Huffington Post, many “legal experts” opine that the call itself might even amount to a criminal invasion of privacy—and the fact that the radio station claims to have performed an “internal legal review” before performing the prank lets us know that they did indeed consider the risks ahead of time.

The entire incident was “avoidable” in that it never should have happened, but the desire for media attention thanks to an “exclusive” story proved too strong to resist. That said, how do we grade the station’s damage control efforts? And do we see any way out of this crisis?

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.