Archive for February, 2007

Is this the worst press release ever?

February 26, 2007

The first paragraph of the Department of Health press release reads:

People with a chest cancer related to exposure to asbestos will receive a boost today, as a new framework for improving their care is launched by Health Minister Rosie Winterton.

Here’s the prognosis for mesothelioma (from Wikipedia):

What are the long-term effects of the disease? A mesothelioma is a highly aggressive tumor that is generally deadly. Current treatment of malignant mesothelioma is designed to make the person with cancer comfortable. Although long-term survival cannot usually be expected, the case of famed paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould is a noted example.

So patients should be happy because the British government is observing “Action Mesothelioma Day”? The survival rate after 5 years is less than 10%, but don’t worry, The Government Has A Plan.

There is some competition from the Department of Health for the most inane press release. Only today, I learned that “Sneezing or coughing without covering your mouth is more annoying than people talking loudly on their mobile phone and more annoying than people who don’t say please and thank you – yet nearly half of people do not always carry a tissue outside the home, a new survey has found.”

You guessed it: The Government Has A Plan. Enter the “Carry a Kleenex for Victory in the War on Sneeze and Cough-Related Cold Infection” or CKVWSC-RCI Action Day.

You think I’m making it up? Here’s from the same press release:

a new Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases campaign has been launched in a bid to halt the spread of germs, diseases and infections through simple hygiene steps.

Here’s where some of the money will go:

Campaign posters are being distributed to a wide variety of health and public settings including GP surgeries, health centres, pharmacies, schools, libraries and workplaces. In addition, retail organisations and major employers are also being encouraged to support the campaign by raising awareness amongst employees.

A survey has provided insights into the current hygiene practices of the nation. Women are almost twice as likely than men to have tissues with them outside of the home whilst nearly half of all people surveyed said they caught colds at least twice a year. The North West was found to be the region where people washed their hands the most while London proved to be the place were people were less likely to wash their hands.

Professor Lindsey Davies, National Director of Pandemic Influenza
Preparedness, Department of Health said:

“Washing your hands regularly and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze are simple actions which stop the spread of infections yet our research has shown that many people are forgetting to carry out these basic hygiene steps. This campaign will serve as a timely reminder of correct coughs and sneezes etiquette and will help people get into good hygiene habits. This is particularly important now, as February and March are traditionally the months for coughs and colds.”

Professor Brian Duerden, Inspector of Microbiology and Infection
Control, said:

“Many people don’t realise that a cold or flu virus can survive on
the skin for several hours and thus spread to others, but they can easily be removed by regular hand washing. This is why respiratory hygiene is so important. You can reduce your chances of transmitting a cold or flu virus, and may even prevent catching the infection in the first place by: always covering your cough and sneeze with a tissue, binning the tissue afterwards and ensuring that you regularly clean your hands”.

It’s so reassuring to know that the National Health Service, which failed to provide influenza vaccine for most of the people its managers decided should have a jab this winter, is focussing on priorities like poster campaigns for Kleenex and opinion polls.

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The difference is small

February 13, 2007

The difference between being in a cave in pitch darkness and being in a cave and glimpsing a distant opening is physically almost imperceptible, but one tends towards passivity and the other tends to be dynamic.

This Pharma Marketing blog posting about the shifts away from broadcasting or channeling a message towards having a conversation gives an insight into a major event.

Here is an extract of what John Mack gets right:

How? By letting the patient in. Let them add their voices to your communications. How do you do this? First you must embrace the reality that people-to-people communications are more powerful than any DTC ad or unbranded education Web site.

And then a bit where it all goes a little pear-shaped.

And that by letting the patient have the venue to create a community or state an opinion facilitated by your company is the best way to channel the power of peer-to-peer communications.

Sadly, the two passages come from the very same paragraph. Surely all the image problems of gift pens and lunches for doctors aren’t simply going to be repeated in patient groups?

The beauty of blogging is that, unless you’re a corporate executive of the kind that thinks emails should be dictated to secretaries, you don’t need money or technical expertise.

All we want from drug firms is to allow their employees and bosses to tell us who they are, what they do, and how things are going. A bit like at a party. You can bring a bottle, but if you’re paying for all the drinks you’re not a guest.

The drug industry is feared, not trusted, upopular. Stopping the “we have a message for you” approach and engaging in a conversation is unlikely to make things worse for the drug industry in terms of public perception.

The only mistakes to be be made are: 1) to try to control the forum (which will fail and make things looks worse in the process) or 2) to have a script instead of just saying it as it is. The script gets out sooner or later and all those helpful comments in the margins from the coach “shake head solemnly,” “show more feeling here,” and “smile genially and wink,” will cost a lot more than the scriptwriter’s fees.

So “Customer Manages Relationship” is still a terribly clumsy term and it’s a concept with lots of things wrong with it.

But is it easier to move in the right direction from here? I think so.

BBC gets it wrong

February 12, 2007

The B.B.C.’s website is normally a good place to follow the Six Nations Rugby Union competition, but not this year.

Far be it from me to criticize attempts to bring in blogging, but it looks as though the Beeb has spent all its money and efforts on getting a blog up and deliberately trashed the rest of the rugby union section of the site.

1) No Six Nations section.

If the B.B.C.  was trying to make it difficult for anyone to find the overall coverage and summary of the latest news for the competition, then the set-up would make sense. However, the B.B.C. is spending large sums on promoting coverage of the Six Nations, so this makes no sense at all. Is there some faction in the B.B.C. trying to sabotage another faction?

2) The vanishing pundits.

One of the bits of fun is getting the views of the four pundits (France and Italy are treated like n*****s for the purpose of the B.B.C.’s coverage, but more on that later). They predict the results of all the games, and often do a pretty good job. Even when they’re wrong, it’s often because they decided that a big match would swing one way and it didn’t. Unpredictability is part of the charm of watching sporting events.

So why is it virtually impossible to locate this page? There is no link to it anywhere on the B.B.C. web site that I can find. If I didn’t deliberately go looking for it I would never find it.

One conspiracy theory would be that the pundits know they’ve got their forecasts hopelessly wrong this year, so the evidence is being buried.

Consider the forecasting so far with six matches played: Jonathan Davies (3 right, 3 wrong); Jeremy Guscott (4 right, 2 wrong); Andy Nicol (2 right, 4 wrong); Keith Wood (4 right, 2 wrong). As for the championship predictions, let’s just say they are dead and buried.

3) Stuff the Continental n*****s.

There are over 300,000 French people living in the U.K.. I have no idea how many Italians live here, but the number is no doubt at least in the tens of thousands.

So why is it that the other four nations get their own sections and neither Italians nor French do? It’s bad enough that the punditry is entirely ignorant of the continent. But I didn’t think the B.B.C. was so automatically sectarian as to treat the non-British Isles teams as n*****s, to not be allowed in the pavillion.

The situation is all the more ridiculous that there is no end of Italian and French talent as players in the English Premiership. Among the managers, Philip Saint-André should be able to give some kind of coherent viewpoint.

4) Why France was underestimated.

The conventional wisdom in the B.B.C.’s build-up to the Six Nations was the following:

Ireland had a great autumn international series and were well placed to perform well this year. I agree. It took a remarkable game for the Irish to lose to France at the week-end. I still fancy the Irish to win their remaining matches and to be in reasonable shape for the World Cup. Yes Ireland and Argentina could dump France out of the World Cup on home territory in the group stages, if the hosts don’t perform very well.

England very rubbish, but a few old and new faces would bring back some dynamism. True, but is it enough? We shall see. Don’t bet the house on England retaining the World Cup. In fairness, the conventional wisdom seems to work here.

Scotland and Wales have problems. They almost always do these days. The Scotland win last Saturday was good for them, but I gather it was like watching lightweight boxers wearing jelly gloves.

Italy going backwards? If so for how long?  It will probably take something like a fluke talent (the next David Campese) to happen to be Italian for that team to go anywhere soon.

Which leaves France. Lost twice to New Zealand, once heavily, and narrowly beat Argentina (who beat England).  On the face of it a shambles.

But the truth of the French mood was quite different. Yes New Zealand are way ahead of everyone else. The second test, however, was a tighter game and the management  were satisfied with the improved performance. The win against Argentina came after a string of losses against the Pumas, so it was considered an achievement, not a disappointment.

Coming into this Six Nations championship, France considered a Grand Slam achievable, given the turmoil in the England and Wales camps recently. Recent performances against Ireland left the French optimistic, if only because the Croke Park atmosphere could harm the Irish as much as the Stade de France once choked the French team in the late 1990s.

I knew this from reading L’Equipe. How come no one on the B.B.C.’s rugby coverage team knew it?

I think there’s a market for this

February 7, 2007

The nearly always superb Lifehacker has a health round-up.

Given the delay (and lack of privacy if the government can just take your medical records, sell them to election fund donors legitimate commercial interests, corrupt or lose them) of visits to the doctor’s surgery, is it surprising that there is a demand for this?

Dumb and dumber

February 7, 2007

…or the futility of appeasement.

Google and Viacom seem to be competing for the title of worst business strategists of 2007, if this report on Techdirt is anything to go by.

The evidence is mounting that having YouTube clips increases audience enthusiasm (you know that funny concept that life isn’t always a zero-sum game). Google’s decision (it owns YouTube) to “license” is nothing more than an invitation to sue by boneheaded media corporate marketing departments. As for Viacom, it seems like “treat all your customers like criminals,” which funnily enough, doesn’t seem to have made it into the top business success book titles.