Two recent columns have elicited two different responses which demonstrate, on the one hand, the skill of a smart communicator, and on the other, the nit-picking approach too often taken by amateurs to divert attention from a column’s major point.
The first example comes from the column questioning whether there really is a cure for cancer, and suggesting that recent television ads seen frequently on CNN by M.D. Anderson, the huge Houston-based cancer care center affiliated with the University of Texas, were in fact over-promising with an apparent claim that MDA had conquered the dread disease.
The column also referenced an incident ten years ago in which they refused to see a potential patient and turned down the request for a second opinion. The column listed its outlets and invited MDA to submit a rebuttal if they felt injured.
Within 24 hours an associate director of external communications, Julie Penne , e-mailed back a truly responsive response reflecting the fact tht she had obviously mastered easily Public Relations 101, and that MDA, huge though it is, knows how important smart communications is for their national image.
First, she addressed the personal, and sincerely offered congratulations for holding my cancer at bay for almost ten years. Next, though it was ten years ago since they had refused to see me, my column and cover note had been forwarded to the clinic’s leadership team and someone would be calling shortly.
Third, she thanked me for sending the contact information for the media that carry my column should they wish to produce a rebuttal.
Fourth, she sent the critique of the ads to their marketing team for a review. This past weekend there were script changes in the “talking head ads.” They substituted for language like “cancer, you lose” and inserted a phrase I have often used, and one that was in my cover note: “I’m still here.” That’s all they have to say—-a straight forward, indisputable fact.
A good guess is they arrived at the need for some slight changes based on reactions from ad “focus groups.” It clicked with them when several of the participants said the same thing. Still, it is nice to think just maybe I influenced the decision a wee bit.
Contrast that response now with Craig Gehrke’s letter to all my media clients in which the field director for the Wilderness Society took exception to my column expressing disappointment in supporters of the new Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness settling for less than half a loaf in this wonderful part of Idaho, rather than holding out for President Obama to invoke the Antiquities Act to protect more acreage while restricting more motorized vehicle use.
Gehrke believes the National Monument designation would have been a hope and a prayer that let the perfect be the enemy of the good and risked gaining nothing at all. However, it is incontestable that all the Risch/Simpson legislation really does is preserve the current status quo.
Gehrke engages in a classic false syllogism whereby he cites my factual error on a minor point in the column and hopes then to invalidate in a reader’s mind everything else I wrote. His nit-pick was to challenge my statement that the Andrus/McClure comprehensive statewide wilderness bill in the late 1980’s would have placed more acreage into wilderness than does Congressman Simpson’s legislation.
He is correct. My memory was faulty on the amount of wilderness (157,000 acres) in the Boulder/White Clouds wilderness proposed by the duo, as opposed to the 275,000 acres of wilderness in the new law. I’d thought the two major political players in the late 80’s had proposed 300,000 acres.
That error, however, does not belie the column’s major point that the land itself, and more of it, would have been better protected by designation as a National Monument.
Nor does Gehrke acknowledge the many areas not included in Simpson’s bill because of increaseed motorized vehicle use over the last 25 years that invalidated the ground from being considered for wilderness—areas like Champion Lakes, Washington Peak, Little Redfish Lake and lower lands of the Big Boulder and Little Boulder Creeks and the area south of the Pole Creek/Germania Creek trails. These areas left out are why all the Simpson bill really does is to place into law what is the current status quo.
Ask yourself what is truly best for the resource and an honest answer has to be a National Monument. Preserving the status quo is no cause for celebration.
His nit-picking response is disappointing, and it should be clear which response, his or MDA’s, warrants acclaim.