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Commentary

Wednesday, May 30, 2017 covfefe and other typos
I vote that the President Trump tweet containing “covfefe” is a typographical error, a typo. They are unavoidable, and certainly not the first for @realDonaldTrump.  While I stress proofreading as a must to my advertising and public relations students, I know that they will be subjected to the insidious, discouraging, demoralizing power of the typo!  A short “typo” story from my ad career follows.

I was working as an account supervisor for DDB Omnicom.  Our client was the International Gold Corporation, the client company for our Effie award-winning Gold Information Center ad campaign (the ad I wrote, Gold in an Innocent America, is included and memorialized in Bill Bernbach’s Book, written by Bob Levinson, and filled with Bill’s favorite DDB ads.  Intergold, as our client was called, was the marketing arm of the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, about the time apartheid was coming to an end.

I digress – the setting was a kickoff meeting for a new ad campaign for the Krugerrand gold coin, a product we had branded and promoted to a far and away number one in its category.  A cocktail party was scheduled for a week hence, and the product manager for the client, George (his last name will remain hidden), a man so generally disliked by our agency team that it needs no underscoring, burst into the meeting with a handful of fresh-off-the-press invitations to the party.  Proudly distributing the invites around the table, we all took a quick glance, and “ahemed” them to the tabletop. 

After a very pregnant pause, the sardonic tones of our management SVP, Bill Wardell, were heard: in a questioning tone, emphasizing the final word dramatically, Bill said, “Chamber of Mines of South America?” I’ve never seen a person’s face turn as blood-red as George the product manager’s did in that moment.  He ran out of the conference room yelling “call the printer ASAP—don’t let those invitations go out!”  But not before he gathered each incorrect invite he had just handed out to us.  And not before we nearly fell out of our chairs, guffawing.  

As it turned out, the devastating power of the typo hastened George’s firing, a kick in the butt toward an exit that we had hoped for months.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017  ON A PERSONAL NOTE

TO Letters to the Editor—New York Times
 
Julia Wallace’s article in the New York Times on April 2, 1017, “Cambodia, appealing war-era debt, tells U.S.: You owe us,” is fascinating and underscored the deep embarrassment, no, shame, so many of us feel about our country’s mistake in escalating the Vietnam War.  It was the signature issue of my college years, and set my generation apart, and as in many ways, un-American because we protested, to our own detriment, including personal harm.  

The bombing of Cambodia in the spring of 1970, although of little military use, was useful in unifying anti-war activists, and led directly to the two-week student strike, which led in my case, at the University of Virginia, to me and many others being tear-gassed by National Guardsmen. Can we not ever admit mistakes in policy, can we not include diverse points of view in national discussions of our history?
 
Sincerely,
 
Dr. James W. Wyckoff, APR
Adjunct Assistant Professor
New York Institute of Technology

Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Lost in the discussion of repealing/replacing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) are its provisions, rules, guidelines, and reimbursements that are designed to save money, make hospitals and medical providers more accountable, increase efficiency and patient outcomes, encourage cooperation between providers (by forming ACOs, or accountable provider organizations).  In other words, the significant infrastructure introduced in the ACA to revolutionize health care.  I forgot the widespread adoption and eventual requirement, of electronic health records.
Will these be thrown out with the bathwater by the Trump WH and the GOP-controlled House and Senate?


Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Measuring, managing, and monitoring your Knowledge Capital (KC) gives you an advantage over your competition.  Findings from several large studies among American corporations, reveal 95%-plus of CEOs believe KC needs to be treated as a priority asset, yet less than 10% have systems in place to do so!  My research among hospital trustees confirm that KC is of utmost importance to strategic decision making, perhaps as important as traditional measures like hospital admissions, and cash flow. (to be continued...)

Monday, January 9, 2017
Recently, I explained to a marketing communications practitioner that I was consulting for agencies, offering services that help in vetting content and strategies according to ethical communication guidelines. In that context, we chatted about some of the broadcast copy for the class of diabetes drugs including Invokana.  He pushed back some, convinced that side effects that were presented as benefits must be “requirements” codified by the FDA.  I agreed to research the topic some more.  Here are some things I came up with
 
As we know, there is no brand category more prone to charges of unethical communication than prescription drugs (maybe tanning salons are slightly more frequent targets), and by association, direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical  advertising (DTCA).  The existence of a process of vetting DTCA, overseen by the FDA, has not (and will never) quiet critics like myself and consumer groups who see marketers and their agencies taking a substantial amount of license in ethical areas such as transparency, beneficence, fairness, and evidence-based content, to name just a few. 
 
With proper ethics vetting, however, critics can be quieted, if not silenced altogether. A class of drugs prone to focus for ethical issues is that for diabetes, specifically those known as SGLT2 inhibitors.  A brand name drug in this class in Invokana.  Invokana received FDA approval for controlling A1C, a measurement used to improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes, in 2013.  A prior approval of a higher dosage of the drug (canagliflozin) approved to be used with another diabetes drug to treat obesity, preceded launches of ad campaigns for brand names Belviq and Qsymia.
 
In general, as drugs approved for a variety of uses compete on ever-slimmer incremental benefits, and even compete on edgy concepts such as surrogate end points and claims such as “may possibly lead to clear skin,” product differentiation seems to hinge on what DTCA drug critics have grouped as 1)“lifestyle” portrayals, and 2) spinning of side effects into pseudo-benefit. Both approaches land full-blown in the lap of the ethicist, with overlap in the legal areas of FDA approval.
 
Specifically, Invokana’s advertising has been criticized for its touting of lifestyles, and its mention of weight loss as a tease, since the loss is not one of the major side effects of Invokana as a glycemic controller. The percentage weight loss for Invokana (A1C, glycemic control) is about 3 percent (not much more than a normal variation in most people), whereas the FDA approved higher-dosage anti-obesity formulation in combination treatment averages 7-8% weight loss, or more.
 
In a Wall Street Journal article from November 2015, Should FDA penalize drug makers over diabetes ads? “A consumer watchdog has asked the FDA to stop several drug makers from promoting their diabetes medicines for losing weight, because the drugs were not approved for this purpose. In a letter to the FDA, Public Citizen says the ads are ubiquitous – they appear in magazines and on company websites – and all contain statements describing how the medicines can be used to help people lose weight, even while including language saying these are not diet drugs.

‘Despite the presence of disclaimers that the medications are not weight-loss drugs,’ the advocacy group writes, ‘the implication is clearly that weight loss is an additional potential benefit of the drugs. The deliberate placement of the claims in such close proximity to the drugs’ approved indications serves to reinforce this impression.’ The group also notes two diabetes drugs are being touted for controlling blood pressure.”
 
According to its own published guidelines, (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/PrescriptionDrugAdvertising/ucm072077.htm) the FDA requires:
All product claim ads, regardless of the media in which they appear, must include certain key components within the main part of the ad:
·         The name of the drug (brand and generic)
·         At least one FDA-approved use for the drug
·         The most significant risks of the drug
Product claim ads must present the benefits and risks of a prescription drug in a balanced fashion.
Print product claim ads also must include a "brief summary" about the drug that generally includes all the risks listed in its approved prescribing information.
·         Under the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007, print advertisements need to include the following statement: "You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit MedWatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088."
Broadcast product claim ads (TV, radio, telephone) must include the following:
·         The drug's most important risks ("major statement") presented in the audio (that is, spoken) AND
·         Either all the risks listed in the drug's prescribing information or a variety of sources for viewers to find the prescribing information for the drug
 
This means that drug companies do not have to include all of a drug's risk information in a broadcast ad. Instead, the ad may tell where viewers or listeners can find more information about the drug in the FDA-approved prescribing information. This is called the "adequate provision" requirement.  For broadcast ads, we have said that including a variety of sources of prescribing information fulfills this requirement.
 
We have suggested that broadcast ads give the following sources for finding a drug's prescribing information:
·         A healthcare provider (for example, a doctor)
·         A toll-free telephone number
·         The current issue of a magazine that contains a print ad
·         A website address

Wrapup to my reasoning. Weight loss was not one of the top several side effects found in the clinical trials for Invokana, as evidenced in their P.I. and print ad copy.  However, it is a prominent part of the audio tract of the TV spot.  One can imagine the reception a claim, presented in the guise of a “side effect,” of “While not for weight loss, it may help you lose weight.” From what is published, and from the outcry reported in the WSJ article, the “deception” in the TV ad is intentional, and not required.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Who’s discussing the real essence of Obamacare—prevention, improved quality, and community health and wellness?
Apparently lost, or intentionally hidden in the political discussion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare) are the vast number of its provisions that seek to prevent acute and chronic diseases, and improve access to and quality of health services.

The ACA provides for insurance plans to cover wellness visits, and checkups.  It also provides screenings for major types of cancer: breast, cervical, colorectal, as well as services such as depression counseling, smoking cessation, and obesity screening and counseling.  
We haven’t heard one sentence or sound bite supporting these services, all of which are not likely to be “repealed.”  They just make good sense, and make the ACA a good deal for the American people.

Other provisions worth saving (if not the entire ACA, at least the provisions as part of a replacement Act): incentives for health providers to cut infection, and to minimize readmissions after surgical procedures; programs and funding to reduce medical errors; guarantees of more time spent with one’s doctor/medical professional (including being able to reach out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the doctor’s office; and finally, after years of good intentions, electronic medical records.

Monday, December 19, 2016 
“Sometimes you have to trick people into caring;” How one website is getting young people to get engaged with issues that matter.
How frustrating for the college professor (believe me, I know) to ask a class of 25 students a question even a bit easier than the one asked Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson (i.e., What is Aleppo?), “What is happening in Syria these days?”  The probable (and actual, for this professor) answer… silence.  
Probing further uncovered a profound lack of understanding by the students… of the focal point of current efforts at world peace, and war.  Ask students about the latest incredible animal Youtube (remember the cat who chased the vicious dog away from the infant, or the cat playing the piano?) and hands fly toward the ceiling.  So, I ask you, how does one get young people to research, study, dare I say, care about, subjects as serious as Syria?
The website Attn: (pronounced, “attention”) thinks it has the answer.  “If you want the dog to eat the pill,” Matthew Segal is quoted as saying, “you have to wrap it in a piece of bologna.”  Yes, Segal’s double entendre using the luncheon meat’s homonym is the way Attn: has seeded the Internet with viralworthy content such as, “Why Japan’s Public Bathrooms Put (sic) America to shame,” and “Why There’s a Mass Prison Strike Going On Right Now.” 
I can cite my recent experience in an undergraduate classroom where there was a near-mutiny after the first grades were returned to students.  The solution did not involve charcuterial theories of education, but in fact the current chapter of our textbook, Introduction to Human Communication, by Beauchamp & Baran.  The section on organizational communication, specifically conflict communication, traces a conflict to a peak of harm, or injury, through negotiation, and eventually change, or resolution.  As a class, we worked through this conflict communication framework, and whether the students feel they were fed bologna, or baloney, they had to admit our discussion and resolutions were indeed adult, productive, and unprecedented in their school experience.
Source article: Denizet-Lewis, B. (2016, October 23). Can he have your Attn:, Please?  New York Times, Week in Review, 8.
Beauchamp, S., and Baran, S. (2017). Introduction to human communication: Perception, Meaning, and Identity.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Friday, January 8, 2016
First post of the new year!  A good place to start: I attended two career events for students last evening.  The first, Career Connections, hosted by the Alumni Association of SUNY Oswego (where I am a visiting assistant professor of PR this year), held at SUNY FIT.  Nice crowd, and almost 3 dozen alums in business giving up their time to meet prospective employees about to graduate from Oswego.
Then, over a few blocks to a career networking event hosted by my undergraduate alma mater, University of Virginia.  Fabulous, promising students excited about graduating and working in the "real world!" I hope I shared some valuable tips and observations.  Those of you in business, please give back (you are probably doing it already, but keep it up)!

Monday, December 28, 2015
This will probably be my last post of 2015.  My resolution is to be more prolific in 2016.  I will be publishing articles in peer-judged journals to expound upon my doctoral research.  I will be commenting on integrated marketing communications (IMC) issues and news.  I will blog about my experiences teaching IMC.  I will be continuing as an expert in IMC ethics matters (especially health care).  And I will be expanding this consultancy by offering services to hospitals and health care organizations globally.  Happy New Year!

Monday, March 30, 2015
As part of judgment by NYS attorney general, GNC now announcing plans to inspect ingredients in its dietary supplements.  You might remember that AG found that there were NO actual ingredients in products as were on label!  Advanced DNA testing of ingredients used, as well as in-store displays and semiannual reports on its supplement operations.  Many ethical questions, highlighting the Wild West nature of the diet and supplement industry.  I am currently writing a chapter on health communication ethics, and this will be a sidebar!

Sunday, August 3, 2014
The recent struggle over American Apparel emphasizes the primacy of personality over process, and the extent to which boardroom maneuvers are subject to the light of public opinion.  Sure, the AA board can be applauded for doing its duty (although all warrant that they waited way too long), but not foreseeing the lengths at founder Charney would go to salvage his reputation and power shows a lack of governance advice from AA's legal team. Bring in the experts next time!   
 
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Why isn't GM CEO Barra following her experts in dealing with the recall of more than a million cars? By her more than a month of inactivity in 2014, she is allowing someone else to run with the ball, including the Justice Department!  And, her not-much-better-late-than-never comment last week that "GM's reputation will be determined by how it handles the recall from this point forward" is not only naïve, but reckless.  Can't we get some crisis experts with backbone to pushback against this CEO?
 
Thursday, September 25, 2013
Good news about bill FDA giving more authority over drug compounders http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/us/politics/more-sway-for-fda-is-object-of-new-bill.html?_r=0
Long overdue!  The latitude given to compounders to formulate drugs is problematic, resulting in large swings of effectiveness for generics, even though this term is synonymous with "identical" in the consumer's mind.  Not to mention what prompted the bipartisan bill's development, contaminated and potentially lethal product such as that produced by New England Compounding Company a year ago.
  
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Today's announcement that Anna Wintour, long-time Vogue editor, will now be artistic director of Conde Nast, is a big step forward in the recognition of Knowledge Capital as a C-suite equal of financial performance and value.  Her description of her duties as being "an in-house consultant" to Conde Nast properties is now formalized.  Other "creative director" positions have appeared in recent months at Apple, other companies: Alicia Keyes, Will I. Am, etc. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/business/media/conde-nast-creates-new-job-for-anna-wintour.html?_r=0
 
Thursday, June 21, 2012
As we wait for the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act or at least on its "mandate" portions) it might be worthwhile to consider that despite the controversial nature of this act, it does little to advance our approaches to two of the most harmful and bewitching medical conditions affecting the country -- diabetes and Alzheimer's.  Cost efficiencies and process streamlining, enabled by the ACA, lead us no further to the heart of these conditions. 
 
My recent visit to Korea and one of its leading epidemiologists proved to me that only a multi-focused set of hypotheses will succeed because of the many inseparable contributing causes.  For example, Korean researchers are looking at the effect of environmental chemicals (specifically, persistent organic pollutants -- POPs) in causing obesity in Americans.  These chemicals lodge in adipose tissue in low doses, and are highly correlated with Obsity leading to Type 2 diabetes.
 
Tuesday, January 3, 2011
According to a New York Times story, there's a new CEO at Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. There was no official announcement of this important development at Wyckoff (the writer has no direct connection with the institution, just a place on the family tree of the namesake). Furthermore, the new CEO, Ramon Jesus Rodriguez, was a member of the task force that helped "save" the hospital a few months ago. Note to the board:  May we please have some transparency?  The impression is of deceit and secrecy, so please set the record straight.
 
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Donald Berwick, the almost nominee for head of the CMS, left his office behind with a few words about waste in health care, about 20% waste to be exact. The five top areas of waste? "... overtreatment of patients, the failure to coordinate care, the administrative complexity of the health care system, burdensome rules and fraud. Link to New York Times article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/health/policy/parting-shot-at-waste-by-key-obama-health-official.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=donald%20berwick&st=cse
 
Wednesday, September 20, 2011
GE Capital advertisement, stating that a business dealing with the company receives more than financial assistance, but knowledge capital.  This is where the rubber meets the road, and what Wyckoff Consultants provides: knowledge capital measurement, monitoring and management.  First step: a knowledge capital audit.
 
Saturday, December 10, 2009
New York Times main section story today on hospital cancer center advertising. The overpromise and lack of transparency of hospital advertising has been a concern of mine for years, at least since I was working in the field and for the ten years during which I have taught advertising and public relations at the college level (will be teaching the first Health Care Advertising and PR course Spring 2010). 
 
Hospitals, claiming that they are practicing reputation marketing, are behind the curve. It's been about two decades since smart national advertisers figured out that the reputation advertising is a waste of money. Rather than provide individuals with the information tools that will guide an informed decision, ad agencies and marketing consultants are once again selling health care organizations a bill of goods. 
 
Simple suggestion for ethical health system leadership to get one limb out of the quicksand: run copy indicating that the complete story behind the ad, as well as statistics on cancer risk and recovery for their physicians and hospital, appears on the hospital website. Oh, yes, and don't forget to involve the cancer center/department of oncology in the ad's creation (can you imagine, some are not)!
 
Sunday, November 15, 2009
UNC and other universities, using consultants and this transitional economy to reorganize for more efficiency. Added bonus: A donor funded the $3 million spent by UNC on Bain & Company. Projected savings of greater that $150MM.
 
Thursday, November 13, 2009
Pfizer leaving New London, CT (New York Times). For those who think that multinational presences and Internet communication have eradicated the concept of geographic community, or "place," are well-advised to take note of the fallout from Pfizer's bull-in-a-china shop entrance eight years ago, and carpetbagger exit now.
 
Monday, September 21, 2009
Controversy about ghostwritten research reports done for pharma companies. We need to hear from writers' groups such as NASW (National Association of Science Writers), and IABC. Technical writers and others on the service side need to be accountable for misperceptions and falsification of data.
 
Thursday September 17, 2009
New York Times article (Flanigan, B9) today mentions the medical device KneeAlign(tm), which is designed to aid in knee replacement. Could see use of such not for doing the surgery (if a surgeon, would spurn such aids on the basis of pride) but as an evidence-based outcome component. Maximum reimbursement based on use of clinical aids and measures that improve outcomes. A bit like the strike zone reviews for umpires in Major League Baseball.
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