Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Quantum Opinion on the PR Blunders of the DRI



  1. A discrete quantity of energy proportional in magnitude to the frequency of the radiation it represents.
  2. An analogous discrete amount of any other physical quantity, such as momentum or electric charge.

Today was a painful day in the online community. There have been a few days in the past few weeks where I felt betrayed by members of the community. The first being the fake accounts of Bonnie and Jeremy who I was in contact with frequently, and today.....well today is the most painful.

Today the Diabetes Research Insitute announced that they are this close to a cure. In fact they used fancy shmancy term like Quantum Leap forward (FYI: that is not the right use of quantum...if they meant massive) I am happy for research, I want there to be no diabetes in my future, I want companies who are doing this research to tell me about it! What I don't want is to have my hopes twisted, I don't want to lose another night of sleep because a member of my community had me on the edge of my seat. I don't want to be a part of an awful PR spin that makes my stomach drop at the giant (proper term, probably should have used that one, DRI).

Last night our very own Diabetes Dad posted a teaser about today's announcement. He specifically indicated in his comments that he was shaking and crying. He has two children with type one, he works for the DRI. His blog is solely his opinion and I get that. That teaser left me upset that such grand news was being withheld. It wasn't necessarily Tom's fault, as all businesses have to be a business. It wasn't his fault that his emotions overcame his sense last night. In fact, he posted a very poignant albeit a bit finger pointy apology today.

This is bad PR. The entire past two days are BAD and misjudged PR blunders on behalf of the DRI. The BioHub is exciting, yes. But making a call for money at the end of a video that can literally change everything about the way a person eats, sleeps, drinks and breathes is shitty.

I don't think the teaser post last night was part of a PR scam. I think the video and announcement today is. I think that using and manipulating the DOC the way we have been, and then manipulating a video of an islet cell transplant patient sounding like she had been a BioHub recipient was low. I think that the ask for money, basically saying if you want to be cured you have to donate was low. I think the entire production by the DRI today has been a low point in how messages can be relayed.

I also think this is a great case-study for PR students, with a focus on using your audience and the importance of your personal brand in relation to your job. You see, Diabetes Dad posted about his opinion and his feelings on the subject. His blog is his own, however when you work for an organization so closely tied with your personal brand you need to disclose, disclose and disclose again. You need to be more than clear what the intentions are of your posts, you need to not post teasers to announcements like this using terms like "it's what we have been waiting for." Because, what are we waiting for? A cure. What is the BioHub? A fantastic and aggressive treatment. When our work is heavily involved in social media, and when our social lives align with the roles of our positions we need to be cautious of how we present our opinions. It's not like it used to be. This is a whole new world we live in, the electronic world is so connected we have to remember that if we are taking a position where our personal views and our professional views align we sometimes may not be able to separate them. Diabetes Dad, I don't think you were malicious or intended to hurt your community. I think you are a genuine person who was excited about your work and mis-presented in your excitement. I accept your apology and hope you have learned from your mistake.

I work in PR. I have my grad degree in PR. I get it. I know why the video is worded the way it is, they are kicking off a major funding campaign for an amazing feat. I hope they are successful. I really, truly do. I hope they learned their lesson on playing with the emotions of other human beings.

I know I am playing into their hands and they WANT people talking about it. I WANT people to fund this project because I WANT a new TREATMENT. I DON'T want to be toyed with. No more.


  1. I had similar feelings. The request for donations did sting but I saw it as a necessary pain. Research can't fund itself but still it stung. In addition to being a certified teacher I also have a degree in Organizational Communication and Im beating that the way DRI shared this news will be a future lesson in how not to share news. I read Toms post about 5 minutes before the DRI video was leaked so I didn't have time to get too ramped up. I was still in the skeptical phase so my feelings weren't hurt but I certainly can see how it would be a bit of a let down for so many fighting this battle for so long. I hope to see this new technology active soon, making live easier for all of us. Is it THE cure, well no but it sure would be an amazing tool.

  2. I completely agree with everything you wrote, except one thing. Technically the BioHub would not be a cure. It would ideally (I believe) be the method in which we could transplant islets and protect them from destruction, allowing them to work naturally. It would be a cure, much like how islet cell transplants work now, but minus the horrible immunosuppressant drugs and potential autoimmune response. However, that's only if they get it to work, and right now I haven't seen anything that says they have found a way to get it to work. That's what's frustrating. This isn't a new discovery, it's just an announcement for a new idea.

  3. Ack! I meant to write that the BioHub WOULD be a cure. Sigh.

  4. The internet blowing up with angry diabetics was sad.
    I had my trepidations when I read DDads post. I held out all "hopes" and "excitement" until the end of the video when I learned my suspicions were true.
    Great post!! Mine won't be so.... nice.