Branding a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes

It was the fourth time that I had been contacted with a request to “correct” a story Insulin Nation had done on a research effort, and I was trying to find the most diplomatic way to tell the researcher to leave me alone.

I had already been contacted by the researcher’s public relations team and others, and was sent a list of suggested edits. Some suggestions did clarify what was written, and I incorporated those. Others seemed focused on rebranding the information given, and those I declined to include. Now, the researcher wanted to rewrite a quote. I politely declined, vowed to myself never to cover that research effort again, and then quickly talked myself out of that vow – my job is to share information, even if that process is made…difficult.

The diabetes research field is full of good people striving to make people’s lives better. It is also a competitive arena where researchers must vie for ever-shrinking research grants. In this competition of ideas, elbows get sharp, and turf wars spring up. Editors and reporters are at the frontline of endless public relations skirmishes.

An important prize of this competition is the news cycle. Cure research news often percolates through diabetes news outlets shortly after trial results are announced, and then the news dies down until the next trial is completed. Once in a great while, a research effort will be covered by mainstream news outlets and get a huge boost of attention. In these instances, it doesn’t seem to me that the trial featured is any more newsworthy than the others recently covered by diabetes news outlets, and I wonder if the difference is a good public relations team.

This is the way the game is played, and everyone has a right to craft their message, but still I worry that some promising research efforts might be drowned out by well-publicized research efforts. All I want is for the best treatment idea, not the best packaged idea, to win.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.

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