Written by:Allison Goodman, Account Coordinator with energi PR’s Healthcare Practice in Toronto
World Health Day, Daffodil Month, National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, Parkinson’s Awareness Month, International Hemophilia Day, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month – these are just some of the awareness milestones that occur this April.
Although some may consider these to be merely special awareness days, we in the public relations business view them as key leveraging opportunities.
This day, week or month is the chance for organizations, associations and foundations alike to have their moment to shine and communicate their message and story to a captive audience. This is their opportunity to spread awareness for the disease area or condition that affects their stakeholders every day.
Some commemorate the given milestone with a major announcement, some with a news release and now, the more and more common tactic is through social media sharing. Perhaps an organization will develop a video or infographic that can be shared across all social media channels using a designated hashtag.
Go ahead and search one of the above awareness milestones that have recently passed or are ongoing on Twitter and you are sure to come across numerous mentions and shout-outs.
Let’s take, for example, this month’s Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month campaign. Type #DaffodilMonth in the Twitter search tool and you are brought to countless tweets, videos, links and articles all with a common theme – a message of awareness, strength and courage. This hashtag brings together conversations, stories and encouragement supporting the Society, its efforts and those touched by cancer – either directly or indirectly.
In addition to healthcare-specific awareness milestones, health-related organizations can also leverage non-traditional milestones to share a message and engage a community. As PR practitioners, it is our chance to get creative and correlate our clients with these milestones, becoming engaged in a conversation that extends the reach of their message beyond its typical audience.
Other awareness days this month that can be connected to a health client’s message?
World Book Day – Is there a compelling book related to your client’s disease area? Well, why not post a link to the book with the hashtag #WorldBookDay?
International Jazz Day – Did you know that Natalie Cole, jazz vocalist and daughter of the great Nat King Cole, received a life-saving kidney transplant? This is an opportunity to spread awareness and encourage the importance of organ and tissue donation.
These milestones, and others, are endless… and so are the possibilities.
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energi PR is one of less than a handful of members of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms that began its business in Quebec before expanding to Ontario. We hung out our shingle as Communications MECA in 1990 with a clear vision to be a national public relations consulting firm that just happened to be headquartered in Montreal. Independently owned, we were reportedly the only PR “boutique” (ugh, we hate that term) that had bricks and mortar in two major markets. As such, we provided an option to clients who liked working with a smaller shop but who expected seamless service in English and French Canada. Born and bred in QC, we knew the market, had the connections, spoke the language and understood the political, social, behavioral and attitudinal differences. Counselling Quebec-based companies wanting to do business elsewhere in Canada and the US or firms wanting to come to the Quebec market, we bridged the gap ensuring that programs were neither Montreal or Toronto centric. We’re still here nearly 25 years later.
While politics and religion are two topics you want to avoid in a business context, we believe it’s important to our current and future employees, clients and colleagues that we make our views clear with respect to the current government’s platform of sovereignty as well as to two specific pieces of proposed legislation – Bills 60 and 14. Should the Parti Quebec government be re-elected with a majority government (not likely given recent polls) it is our opinion that the way energi PR does business in Quebec and how YOU do business in Quebec will change, and not for the better.
If you live in the ROC it is likely you are bored by this cyclical “neverendum” referendum discussion and either could not care less or feel that you and your firms will not be affected. You may have read about PQ candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau, who in his fist pumping remarks on being named a candidate professed his determination to leave his children a country. He did not mean Canada.
The electoral campaign has gone downhill from then.
energi PR believes in a Quebec within Canada. We believe that the preservation and dominance of the French language and culture should not come at the expense of the rights and freedoms of other cultural and linguistic communities. We believe that Bill 60 and its proposed ban on “ostentatious” religious symbols for public sector employees including day care workers, healthcare professionals and teachers, described in part as the hijab, turban and kippah is not only restrictive, but will escalate the fear, public humiliation, intolerance and violence that has already been manifested and felt by our citizens.
On Monday, April 7th, Quebeckers will vote to elect their government. We hope that the people speak with a voice of inclusion and respect.
Written by Carol Levine and Esther Buchsbaum, co-founders, energi PR
ABOUT energi PR
energi PR founded in 1990, is a full service, bilingual, independently-owned firm specializing in public relations, social media/digital and corporate communications. With offices in Montreal and Toronto, energi PR delivers integrated public relations services to national and multi-national clients in the consumer and healthcare sectors. energi PR is a founding member of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms and is the Canadian affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) that offers representation in more than 80 markets on six continents. Please visit: http://www.energipr.com.
Written by:Jacqueline Zonneville, Account Director with energi PR’s Healthcare Practice in Toronto
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a training session focused on Communications for Risk, Issues and Crisis Management. The day was spent examining the principles/differentiating factors of risks, issues and crisis, and strategic approaches to effectively manage each. Following, my fellow participants and I had the opportunity to put theory into practice and apply our learnings to a uniquely designed mock scenario. A very rewarding experience!
As a PR practitioner focusing on health and wellness, I find myself more and more fascinated by the intricacies of crisis communications, and best practices to weather the storm so to speak. And here’s why (most of which won’t be new to my fellow practitioners, but hopefully of interest nonetheless):
- Crisis never sleeps; it can occur at any time: Take the recent Malaysian Airlines crisis, for example. A round-the-clock communications effort was employed to keep the public up-to-date with accurate information, and to correct the multitude of inaccurate reports making their way onto various media and internet channels, etc. Not to mention, with the rise of social media, a whole new set of crises are making their way to the public eye!
- Crisis requires a forward-thinking approach: When crisis occurs, there’s no going back. All companies can do is find an effective way forward, and to regularly communicate the steps being taken to course correct. Remember, Mohammed went right to the mountain. He didn’t run and hide or back away from it.
- Crisis has punch: Depending on how an organization conducts itself during a crisis, it can allow for an opportunity to gain public support by demonstrating overall worth/goodwill throughout the crisis. I think we can all agree that Tylenol recovered well from its 1980’s laced-capsules crisis.
With healthcare communications comes a mixed bag of crises that companies could potentially face – from potential product recalls to black-box label warnings to loss of life, access to medications (or lack thereof) and everything in between.
Some Qs to ask:
- Is the situation at hand truly a crisis, or are you being faced with an independent issue? Is there a way to contain the issue before it becomes a crisis? Keep in mind, the key differentiator between an issue and a crisis is that an issue relates to an incident whereas as crisis is a more ongoing situation.
- When in crisis, what are the key messages that are important to convey? Is everyone on your response team in line with this message track and are they effectively communicating with the broader organization?
- What solutions to address the crisis can/should be highlighted?
- What are the benchmarks for success for your organization when it comes to effectively managing a crisis?
- What are the short- and long-term strategies needed?
When all else fails, a friendly piece of advice I came across from Hallmark plaque: “Just take it one gigantic, earth-shattering crisis at a time.”
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PR guru Paul Holmes and industry thought leaders headline annual PR Professional Development Session for PR Firm Practitioners
TORONTO, March 25, 2014 – On April 4, the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms (CCPRF) will host its fourth annual “PR Boot Camp”, which brings together professional practitioners from some of Canada’s most prestigious PR firms for an intensive day of learning and development. This one-day workshop will provide attendees with strategies and insights to advance their careers in today’s dynamic communications environment, and provide networking opportunities for emerging stars to dialogue with senior practitioners from Canada’s top PR firms.
Kicking off the day is guest speaker Paul Holmes, editor of The Holmes Report and chief executive of The Holmes Group. Paul has been writing about public relations for more than 25 years. Early in 2000, Holmes launched The Holmes Group, which provides knowledge and insight to public relations professionals across a variety of platforms, including a website, an e-newsletter, events, printed reports, research and consulting assignments, and the SABRE Awards competition. The group’s flagship title, The Holmes Report, covers the public relations business in the Americas, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) and the Asia-Pacific region.
Other speakers will address creativity, business strategy, storytelling and workplace collaboration. Sessions will be led by the owners/operators of Canada’s top PR firms, as well as outside experts, including thought leaders from top Canadian brands.
- Steve Ladurantaye, former Globe & Mail journalist, now Partnerships Manager, News & Politics (Canada), Twitter Canada;
- Karen Howe, Sr. VP, Creative Director and Cannes Lion judge, on making creativity stand out;
- Kasi Bruno, VP Strategy and Cultural Insight, Y&R, on developing big ideas; and
- Rebecca Zamon, Huffington Post Canada Living Editor, on writing compelling headlines
“With an outstanding slate of speakers and group sessions, this professional development event provides the next generation of agency practitioners with new thinking that empowers them to innovate and elevate PR as a fundamental component of business success,” said David Gordon, Chair of the CCPRF. “We are thrilled that some of Canada’s top brands, as well as key influencers within the PR/communications community, are supporting the advancement of our profession.”
The CCPRF Boot Camp is intended for PR agency professionals with seven to 10 years consulting experience, but is open to any PR/communications practitioners interested in sharpening their skill set. There are still spaces available. For more information please visit http://www.cprs.ca/ccprf/PR_BootCamp.aspx.
The Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms, the only trade organization for public relations in Canada, represents close to 25 multinational and independently owned consultancies with the majority of their revenue generated from the business of public relations. The goal of the Council is to promote the professionalism and development of public relations consulting and provide thought leadership in areas that influence industry growth. For more information, visit www.ccprf.ca.
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Most pharma companies want to be known for putting patients first, for unlocking the mystery of serious illness and for improving the patients’ quality of life. These are noble and well-intentioned goals. But they are also ubiquitous; common to most healthcare- focused organizations, and are often not based on an intimate understanding or regular exposure to the end user. In the classic client customer dynamic, there are two key players: the manufacturer/marketer/distributor and the prescriber, almost exclusively the physician. So, is the patient really first?
Consumers of healthcare, a.k.a. patients, increasingly see themselves as the preeminent advocate of their own health and this role may extend to others in their circle including a spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends and even colleagues. Therefore, it’s not difficult to see how a personal connection to acute or chronic illness can grow into activism and advocacy. Taking control over one’s condition; being aware and making informed choices is increasingly the profile of the savvy health consumer. To put patients first means accepting that at the end of the day, the patient voice is louder than you might think.
But how does that relationship work best, achieving everyone’s objectives and maintaining the integrity of the process? The principles may seem like common sense, but when applied diligently, they can make or break this kind of partnership.
10 tips to a happy Industry/Patient Advocacy Group collaboration
- Transparency is rule number one. Keeping in mind industry regulations concerning engagement, the groups need to be clear and comfortable with what each party wants to achieve through the collaboration.
- Write it down. Expectations should be straightforward and recorded in writing to prevent conflict down the road. This sets a reference point by which to measure progress.
- Define success. What is the end game? Describe what this will look like in terms of outcome.
- Soft skills. It is important to understand the inherent differences between large, professional, for-profit organizations and volunteer, community based not-for-profit groups. It should not come as a surprise that patient groups will view industry with skepticism.
- Trust. Trust is not a quick hit and must be earned over time. When it is achieved (earned) it will signal the beginning of a strong relationship and greater support.
- Listening. The patient journey is more than a drama or the content of a news release. It is why the patient or family is devoting time, not only to help their loved one, but the broader constituency of sufferers. Don’t be afraid to enter their world. This may be about business for the company, but without genuine empathy, patience and compassion you risk being seen as opportunistic.
- Messaging. The devil is in the details and the words used in getting the points across will be more important than you may think. Work together to develop messages that are real and compelling for both parties and each of the appropriate audiences.
- Training. Offer the patient advocacy group professional training and development in areas that will be relevant to the work you do together. This might include media appearance training, presentation skills; bring in speakers on public policy, market access, and best practices and show relevant case studies. Don’t discount individual and group needs to fully understand what and how things are done successfully.
- Accountability. You never want to ask or be asked about whether something was done. Set up a regular time to connect face to face as well as over teleconference to report and discuss progress. Determine how much and how often you need to communicate. Ideally appoint one individual from each group to be the key contact to avoid confusion.
- Don’t walk away when the mission is over. Far too often companies wait until they are desperate for the patient voice or endorsement before engaging with them. Successful organizations do stakeholder mapping early in the game and get to know the groups and key influencers well ahead of a need. By the same token, any good relationship cannot be turned on and off without consequence. Stay engaged at some level through a call or lunch meeting and a contribution to further the organization. And continue to provide information on your organization’s contribution in the areas of research, patient programs, awareness, corporate social responsibility and education.
Carol Levine (@Carol_levine) is co-founder and Managing founder of energi PR, digital, communications, an award-winning independently owned Canadian PR consultancy established in 1990 with offices in Toronto and Montreal. energi PR is the Canadian affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network, providing expertise in consumer and healthcare public relations to national and multinational brands. Carol is the immediate past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations firms and is a 2013 Inductee in the Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame as well as a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society.
Posted On: March 12, 2014
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Written by Allison Goodman, Account Coordinator with energi PR’s Healthcare Practice in Toronto.
A friend and I recently attended a panel discussion and, while mingling with one of the panellists who previously worked in the healthcare industry, we discussed how rarely social media is used by pharma. My friend, who works in mobile advertising, immediately asked if it was just a question of who would do it first/best. The gentleman with whom we were speaking and my response came almost in unison: “It’s more so who’s going to do it first and not get in trouble.”
In today’s world, the integration of social media into a communications plan is almost essential. The pharmaceutical industry; however, is still trying to test the waters before fully taking the plunge. Why?
Well, firstly, there’s the need to be compliant with Health Canada’s regulations. As you may or may not know, the healthcare industry is extremely regulated. It goes something like this:
“A social media platform that encourages disease awareness? Sure, why not?!… Just make sure no one ever, ever makes a comment linking to a treatment or brand.” But how can this be done?
There’s the option on Facebook that allows sponsors to review comments before they’re posted, but doesn’t that bring the whole two-way, transparent conversation concept into question? What’s a disease awareness campaign to do?
In addition to regulation, there’s the issue of adverse event/AE (aka undesired side effect) reporting. What if a patient broadcasts having a reaction to a treatment? AEs are incredibly serious and should not be addressed the way one might address bad customer service or annoying cell phone contracts. Patients who experience AEs should speak to someone immediately, but in a society where problems are solved with “to the Twitter handle, we go!” how can we ensure patients are connecting with the company in question or a healthcare professional?
And then there was PAAB, the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board whose mission is to “provide a preclearance review that fosters trustworthy healthcare communications within a regulatory framework for the benefit of all stakeholders.” PAAB is committed to ensuring all advertising and communications are equal, accurate, evidence-based and balanced. Its scope includes promotional product communication for prescription, non-prescription, biological and natural health products to professionals in all media…but what about social media? Does everything posted on a social media platform need to be pre-approved? User-generated content (UGC) can be found on the sponsor’s site, but the presence of this content on a sponsored property can go from compliant to non-compliant by the comments that have been made. For example, if users begin a conversation about a product, it becomes promotional and those discussions could be subject to the regulatory requirements of drug advertising. Thus to PAAB it goes.
Does this all sound like more trouble than it’s worth?
There will always be yea-sayers and nay-sayers, so before hopping into the social media world as a pharmaceutical company, it’s important to take the time to really ask questions and think it through.
– Do you have the in-house capabilities to manage a social media community?
– Does your company have a social media engagement protocol in place? If not, are you willing to invest in one?
– Why do you want to join the social world? Who are you trying to reach? What message are you hoping to convey?
And if these questions get to be too much, never fear! Healthcare PR pros are here and want to work through these questions with you. We’re equipped and ready to get creative and social inside the regulation box!
It was a throw-back to being in elementary school as I sat down last week with a stack of Valentine’s Day cards, an orange pen and envelopes. Yes, there was penmanship involved in this labour of love!
I had a vivid recollection of receiving such a card from a PRSA colleague more years ago than I now care to remember. At the time I thought the idea was beautiful and especially warm and personal. There is something to be said for getting a Valentine’s Day card when you are an adult. In addition, I thought she was pretty cool to be shutting down her company for a day that wasn’t a statutory holiday. I had admired Patrice Tanaka, now chief counselor and creative strategist at PadillaCRT, from the first time I met her at Counselors Academy, PRSA. A maverick in our industry, Patrice is one of a kind and she ran her agency in the same way. Acts of Love & Kindness (ALK) was her idea and it ultimately had a strong impact on the US PR community.
My business partner and I talked about bringing ALK into Canada for years, but business kept getting in the way. And then something wonderful happened.
Last fall energi PR was engaged to provide strategic direction and execution for the media relations involved in the launch and promotion of the national My Giving Moment campaign, inspired by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. This campaign is all about giving, whether it takes the form of time, talent or money.
On the premise that timing is everything, things moved quickly from there and it didn’t take long for me to get Patrice’s blessing to be the agency to finally bring ALK over the border. Our company wide initiative will launch on February 14th.
Since we started our PR consulting firm in 1990, giving back has been a fundamental part of our culture and something we value 365 days a year. But ALK allows us to amplify the importance of being kind. We felt that closing the office for this purpose would send a powerful message about paying it forward. In time we hope to take the message further by inviting our global partners in the Public Relations Global Network to follow our lead and share a greater number of acts of love and kindness in their countries.
You are invited to follow us online on Facebook and Twitter on February 14, 2014 using the hashtag #energiPRALK.
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Written by Jacqueline Zonneville, Account Director with energi PR’s Healthcare Practice in Toronto.
As healthcare communicators, my colleagues and I have our own glossary of terms to understand and reference. Compliance, regulations, code of ethics, and governing bodies (Health Canada, PAAB, ASC) have quickly become part of our regular vocabulary.
The world of healthcare communications has always been intricate, requiring a balance between innovative thinking and the Canadian regulatory guidelines. Today, more than ever, organizations struggle with how to uphold this balance. They look to us as consultants to ensure appropriate compliance, and to clarify the distinction between various forms of communications channels (i.e.) advertising, public relations, digital media, etc.
Specific to PR, we work with media as a conduit to disseminate important messages to key audiences through editorial coverage about a disease area, therapeutic advancement and so on, on behalf of clients. Here, the concept of editorial, in other words, earned (not bought), is the key! We constantly strive to push our thinking to the limit to ensure creativity that will peak media interest, while achieving brand-supportive messaging in light of the regulations. With that comes a shift in thinking about the use of brand placement.
Common questions that typically arise include: How is a key message document/Q&A used? When can a news release be issued and to who? What level of information can be included in a news release and the supporting media materials, and do they need to be submitted to the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB) for review?
Net/net: as communicators in a highly regulated environment, we need to stay up-to-date and compliant with changing regulations, policies, as well as industry trends to deliver the best value to our clients. Reviewing Health Canada’s guidelines is the best starting point – http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/advert-publicit/pol/actv_promo_vs_info-eng.php.
As the great James Brown made known, “Come here mama…. and dig this crazy scene. He’s not too fancy, but his line is pretty clean. He ain’t no drag. Papa’s got a brand new bag.”
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Canadian PR Firm CASACOM extends services with CASACADEMY professional development centre for C-Suite and Managers
To help organizations and leaders adapt to change and transformation, CASACOM announced today: the creation of CASACADEMY, a professional development centre; STRUCTURAL PR™, an exclusive systematic approach to public relations; and a manifesto that elevates the value of Public Relations (PR) as an essential component of business.
“CEOs and leaders are facing unprecedented challenges as they seek to innovate and transform their organizations,” said Marie-Josée Gagnon, APR, CEO and Founder of national PR firm CASACOM. “With our business-focused approach to public relations built around these three new initiatives, we help leaders build solid organizations focused on sustainable growth and common good.” To learn more, please watch her video.
CASACADEMY, a new professional development process
After months of consultation with industry experts, CASACOM opened CASACADEMY, a new professional development center in Montreal and in Toronto. The center will welcome CEOs, senior executives, communications practitioners and spokespeople. CASACADEMY offers a rigorous and unique action-based learning process overseen by a team of experienced coaches and trainers who customize offerings to organizational needs. This highly effective program delivers immediate, tangible results to time-strapped business professionals.
“CASACADEMY has been in place internally for several years to support the professional development of our employees, and now we are making it available to clients,” said Stéphane Ethier, Director, CASACADEMY. “We offer a different approach to learning and development. Much more than a training centre, CASACADEMY is designed to result in the highest possible level of professional development to achieve business impact.”
STRUCTURAL PR™: a new approach to public relations
CASACOM also launched STRUCTURAL PR™, a systematic approach that uses public relations as a powerful means for stronger, more sustainable organizations. STRUCTURAL PR™ builds on the synergies between an organization’s vision, brand and its relationships. Using a set of innovative methodologies and tools, it integrates public relations firmly with business objectives and metrics to accelerate success.
“With STRUCTURAL PR™, we’ve combined our vision of public relations that we’ve used successfully over the last 13 years. It’s a proven approach for more authentic and effective leadership,” explained Gagnon.
A manifesto to elevate the value of PR
CASACOM is also sharing its manifesto, which outlines its vision for public relations as an essential component to build and strengthen businesses. The manifesto clearly enunciates the value that PR offers when integrated throughout an organization.
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This post was written by Marlo Taylor, Senior Vice-President and Practice Lead, Healthcare at energi PR in Toronto.
So, here’s the thing. I was at the Economic Club of Canada’s luncheon yesterday. The keynote speaker? Mayor Rob Ford. I admit, I was there out of morbid curiosity. I had yet to experience the Ford phenomenon in person and I wanted to see it for myself. As a PR practitioner and tax-paying Torontonian, I have been following Mr Ford with that looking-through-my-fingers anxiety I usually reserve for crime shows and Drew Barrymore movies.
As it turned out, our esteemed municipal leader arrived more than an hour late for his speech. My table was auctioning off the butter plate by the time lunch and Mr Ford arrived and we’d run through our entire combined repertoire of Ford jokes and impressions. At least we didn’t leave. One full table did.
When he eventually took to the podium, Mr Ford told us he had been stuck in an elevator. And, it seemed, no one believed him. Of course he was stuck in an elevator – wink, wink, nudge, nudge – and we settled in for a canned speech offering us the Ford Nation’s brash, unapologetic version of his accomplishments and contributions to our city. And thank goodness he did. Here I was, believing he had become an unmitigated and parasitic liability on the fine name and well being of our city when all the while he was saving us BILLIONS at every turn and we were living in unprecedented prosperity. Definitely good to know. My bad.
But watching him in action and thinking of him as a client and me as his PR advisor I was struck by a few thoughts. Importantly, it reinforced what I have come to know as immutable truths about public relations.
- Tell the friggin’ truth. Your reputation is one lie or half truth from being a late night talk show joke. Tell the truth until it hurts. And, when it hurts, learn your lesson, say you are sorry and do better next time.
- Use good manners. Always. There is no excuse for being late, lazy or lackadaisical. Please, thank you and the whole list of things our moms taught us go a long way to establishing a reputation as dependable, reliable and credible.
- Understand and respect your audience. Time is valuable. Your time. My time. An audience’s time. If I offer you an opportunity to speak, respect the chance. I’m giving you my time. It’s valuable and I expect you to be relevant, respectful and real.
- Answer the question. Elephants in the room (and no, that’s not a Ford joke) will continue to dog and flat out squash any PR progress you think you are making until you address the issues head on. Be brave and be transparent. Avoiding questions means you are avoiding accountability. Don’t do that. Own your situation and messages, whatever they may be.
Mr Ford may well have been stuck in that elevator. It’s an unfortunate development in addition to his recent public troubles. But the principles above would have meant that the elevator was a small, laughable glitch a crowd of reasonable business folk would have easily forgiven. But when you don’t adhere to the basics of good communication, you remove yourself from the bank of good will and help ensure that your messages fall on deaf ears. Sadly, Mr Ford’s elevator seems firmly stuck in the PR basement.
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