How PRs can maximise their body clocks

It’s quite alarming to think that it’s 10.20am as I write this blog post and, according to experts, I’m supposed to be at my most alert… If I’m completely honest, I’m absolutely shattered. On reflection, perhaps I shouldn’t have stayed up late in bed watching ‘The Island with Bear Grylls’ on my laptop. Desperate to see the end of the show, I fought the urge to fall sleep until the credits rolled. It was a great idea at the time but if this is going to be my energy peak, I dread to think how I’m going to make it through the rest of the day. And I’ve got that difficult client coming in this afternoon – help!

This morning, as reported by the BBC’s James Gallagher, scientists from some of the UK’s leading universities warned us that ignoring our innate need for sleep, greatly increases our risk of developing certain chronic diseases. We’ve heard it all before, everything from cancer to heart disease has been linked to a lack of sleep, but when experts club together and issue a ‘warning,’ it makes you sit up and think.

Off the back of these findings, the BBC’s health and science team (including @JamesTGallagher, @RachMBuch and @Vic_Gill) developed this very helpful #BBCBodyClock, an interactive reference tool that explains how your body should feel at certain times of the day. Perhaps we can use these findings to work out how best to tailor our own schedules to align with our likely energy levels, whilst simultaneously improving our chances of a healthy future? Fortunately for my peers, I have endeavoured to do exactly that by considering what the comms professionals’ ideal day could look like.

Laura’s Ideal Daily Schedule for Comms Experts (based on #BBCBodyClock findings):

  • 6-7am – Wake up early and resist the urge to exercise (Phew – I’ve been getting that right, at least!). This is also apparently prime time for heart attacks so keep a packet of aspirins nearby in case you feel one coming on. This may be more likely if you’ve dealt with a number of comms crises in recent weeks.
  • 9-12am – Set the morning slot aside for all writing tasks – everything from press releases to blogs to proposals – this is when your mind is supposedly most alert and is best for short-term memory.
  • 12-3pm – Have a spot of lunch and then combat the post-lunch alertness dip with an engaging brainstorm. Perhaps consider a standing brainstorm to keep the creative juices flowing.
  • 3-6pm – Apparently this is the best time for exercise, so in the absence of a treadmill at your desk, book out conference rooms for afternoon calls and walk continuously around the room during the call to take advantage of your fitness peak. Or schedule meetings across town and walk to them, avoiding public transport.
  • 6-9pm – Get out there and network! Organise drinks and a light meal with journalists, fellow PRs, industry experts, etc. NB: This is supposedly a bad time to eat a big meal but a great time for your liver to digest alcohol.

bike men

  • 9-11pm – Set morning alarm on smartphone immediately so you don’t feel the urge to read your emails right before you fall asleep, thengo to bed as soon as you’re tired. Perhaps read a few pages of your book to take your mind off tomorrow’s workload but switch off the lights before you fall asleep on the pages.
  • 12-6am – Sleep in a peaceful, dark, quiet environment and retain memories from the day.

Now to put my plan into action…

We need to pay more for our healthcare in the UK

“Campaigners are urging pharmaceutical giant Roche to lower the cost of a pioneering new breast cancer treatment as the NHS drugs watchdog is set to reject its use on cost grounds.” From BBC News Online today.

paying a doctor

As communication professionals working in the healthcare industry this is an issue that we have to face and deal with all the time. Brilliant new treatment vs cost and lack of affordability of brilliant new treatment.

Of course I understand why women dying of breast cancer would want to take Kadcycla, which is said to prolong life by up to six months, even if it does cost an estimated £90,000 per person. I also understand that our once magnificent and great NHS is on its knees, spreading its ever depleting resources more and more thinly across a growing and ageing population.

So what is the answer? The demand on the NHS budget to pay for new breakthrough therapies for cancer and other diseases is not going to diminish. If anything, with the amazing advances being made with biomarkers and cell therapies, more and more personalised treatments and drugs are going to become available. The companies who manufacture them will quite understandably want to recoup the billions of pounds that they have invested in developing them and also make a profit. And why shouldn’t they? They are businesses like any other and need to see a return on investment. Our challenge is how to communicate the positives of a treatment when NICE is advising against funding them.

Other EU countries, with predominantly healthcare insurance-based models, are making Kadcycla available to women who need it. Agreed, there is wrangling with the insurance companies on the price and level of reimbursement, but in the end, a way will generally be found for the patient who needs it, to get the drug. Happy news story.

This won’t happen here in the UK. And it will increasingly be the case that this won’t happen here, not just with Kadcycla but with more and more blockbuster drugs. Why? Because we simply cannot afford to fund this level of healthcare from the public purse for over 63 million people, 10 million of which are over 65 (expected to have almost doubled to 19 million by 2050). We can argue that QALY (the method of determining the value for money of a medical treatment) is not fair and march with placards as much as we like. It won’t change anything. There just isn’t enough money in the pot to cover it. A formulary development expert, who used to work with NICE and shall remain anonymous, told me in 2011 that the NHS budget for 2012, once broken down, equated to around £120 per person to spend on their healthcare. Many people won’t need any of that annual budget. Many people will need much more.

That’s what those words ‘shortfall’ and ‘deficit’ really boil down to. The NHS can no longer afford to treat us in the way that we want to be treated with the latest advancements in medicine.

Unless we make up the shortfall ourselves.

Hearing the challenges that our clients face on a daily basis to make their treatments available on the NHS, I believe that we need to be paying an additional healthcare ‘top up fee’ each month, taken directly from our salaries. Not an optional private healthcare plan. A mandatory extra amount for every working person in case we ever get really sick and need a drug like Kadcycla. So yes, our GP visits and our basic healthcare would still be ‘free’ (paid for by our existing taxes) – but we would also pay into a fund for additional specialist treatment to be used as and when we need it.

I know many people find this abhorrent and uphold that the NHS was founded on the principle of free healthcare to all, regardless of wealth. I love this idea. But the NHS was founded in 1948. Unless we face up to the fact that this idealistic notion is no longer possible in today’s world then we will increasingly face the situation where the drug that will save our lives, or perhaps prolong it for a few precious months, will be out of our reach. Whilst people in the rest of the Europe and the developed nations of the world will have access to these treatments, we will find ourselves increasingly denied them. And quite frankly, I’m not sure that I want to communicate that.

Was the BBC’s Playlister all rumours of iPlayer Radio?

Last week the Telegraph published a seemingly unconfirmed story about the BBC launching a music streaming service. There was talk of potential partnerships with Spotify and iTunes, and the vast BBC archive being made available online – potentially for free, due to the unique way the Beeb is funded.

This morning the BBC made an announcement that may have been the cause of these rumours. As is usually the case with rumours, they were a little wide of the mark.

iPlayer radio BBC

The BBC has launched a new service called iPlayer Radio, which wraps all radio content previously featured on the regular iPlayer into a brand new iOS app and desktop interface. This means all radio content will be pulled from the existing iPlayer, effectively creating two iPlayers – one for TV and one for radio.

Users can choose to either listen live to any of the BBC’s radio stations, or catch-up on previously aired content. The iOS app has some cool features, including a fancy looking spin-dial interface, the ability to share tracks being played, and an alarm clock that will wake you up with your favourite show (although if you don’t leave the app open when you nod off the alarm won’t sound, which could cause a few late mornings).

An Android app is reportedly to follow; some issues with Flash mean development has been slower. This is the same sort of issue that prevents Nexus 7 users getting the iPlayer officially through Google Play (but there is a cheat). Windows Phone and BlackBerry apps are far from top of the development agenda, but users of those devices can still get access the new service through their mobile web browser according to general manager for programmes and on-demand Daniel Danker.

So it’s not the revolutionary ‘BBC enters on-demand streaming market and puts back-catalogue online’ announcement you might have expected.  However, it does confirm the Corporation sees a distinct difference between what is needed for on-demand TV streaming and catch-up, and what listeners want from their online radio.

There’s a hint this development has been driven by the increasing use of the iPlayer by mobile and tablets users. The press release noted the Beeb has seen monthly iPlayer requests for radio increase 56% and 300% on mobile and tablet respectively year-on-year.

This doesn’t mean that the proposed Playlister is off the cards. The rumour was any such service would launch later in 2012 or early 2013, so the new iPlayer Radio could be a prelude to something much, much bigger from the Beeb.


BBC and Playlister: what will the iPlayer of music be playing?

The Telegraph ran an interesting, and seemingly unconfirmed, story this morning regarding a new music service from the BBC, called ‘Playlister’.

playlister iplayer BBC

It’s billed as a ‘music equivalent’ of the iPlayer, making tracks and albums available to license fee payers for free, on-demand streaming. The BBC is supposedly in talks with existing streaming services Spotify, iTunes and Deezer as potential partners to power the service. This is an effort to “side-step the problem” of licensing content from record labels and artists.

This seems strange, iTunes, Spotify and Deezer are all primarily direct to consumer. 7digital* would be a more logical partner, given the company has an API that allows partners to build digital music download and streaming services and already works with hundreds of partners, Samsung, HTC and Toshiba to name a few.

Going down the partner route is a wise approach for the BBC. It can take a long old time to negotiate licensing deals with individual majors, independent labels and collection societies – even with the clout of the BBC behind you. If the service is to launch in late 2012/early 2013, a partnership seems like the only option – unless negotiations are already near complete.

More interesting is what music catalogue Playlister could potentially offer. The Telegraph’s piece simply says access to “hundreds of thousands of music recordings”, but also notes the BBC has planned to offer a “vast archive of music recordings public in the past, but has always run into trouble clearing the rights.”

So there’s two potential catalogues on the table; one of major label content that could be supplied by a partners and a second of the BBC’s own recordings. There must be a ton of live and ‘unplugged’ style BBC recordings just waiting to be unearthed, which would align to the BBC’s strategy with iPlayer. If this is the plan, what do they need Spotify at all?

As is usually the case with early-days stories, the plan is still being hammered out. The Telegraph notes details are still being “formulated” and  the BBC’s official comment is a polite ‘no comment thanks’, “The BBC is regularly in conversation with digital music providers about how we strengthen radio’s position as the number one place for discovering music in the UK”.

It all sounds very early on, but if Playlister goes ahead this could be a big boost for music streaming – giving it the same shot in the arm the iPlayer gave on-demand TV in 2007. Rock on BBC.

* disclosure: my company represents 7digital


TV news outlets, tablets are yours for the taking

The youth of the US, they are revolting. Not in the nasty sense, but revolting against consuming TV news.

According to some research from Pew, an increasingly small number of ‘young’ Americans are switching off their TV and turning on their phone/tablet/laptop when seeking out the latest news.

According to The Guardian, the report states “Only about a third (34%) of those younger than 30 say they watched TV news yesterday; in 2006 nearly half of young people (49%) said they watched TV news the prior day”. In addition, there was a “notable preference” for consuming news on social media sites over local TV news, according to The Guardian. 42% of 18-29 year olds watched what the US classes as ‘local news’ in 2006, but that figure has dropped to 28% since then.

Perhaps the dual screen habits of playing with a phone or tablet while watching TV are shining through – you’re unlikely to seek out news on Twitter while watching the 10 o’clock News, I would have thought.

Although, I can think of a few use cases that would throw off these results. I regularly go on Twitter with no intention of looking for news, only to end up reading a few articles posted by those I follow. I may throw off the average, given I follow a lot of journalists and PRs, but still. And what if I’m watching BBC TV news on my tablet. Where am I plonked in these results then?

TV’s audience may be aging, but more devices capable of news consumption could and should lead to more news consumption overall. The BBC is already making efforts to improve the iPlayer experience generally for mobile device users. If these US trends come to the UK, it’s up to TV news outlets to make their output as appealing to mobile readers as possible.