Who Needs Experience?

Anyway, the inspiration for this week’s piece comes from the people on LinkedIn, frequently in consultancy businesses that sound like mine but are not, who write “articles” that are what we Scots might politely call “mince”. There are a couple in particular over the last few weeks that have managed to irritate me to the point of having to write about it.

Pretty much every day for the last 17 years I have practised the morning ritual of going through the press releases for medtech. A bit of twiddling with Google (and sometimes LinkedIn) gives me what the world wants me to know.

For the most part, the press worldwide does not follow medtech very closely beyond a few big companies (Abbott, Siemens, J&J) or some more broadly interesting stories both positive (DeepMind) or negative (Theranos*). Most of the newsfeeds I subscribe to spend most of their time circulating company press releases – or slightly more sophisticated PR stuff – soft interviews with the CEO, reviews of technology, notes on successful fundraising, new appointments to Boards, investor comments etc. This means that you can throw away about 95% of the material immediately: it will be the usual, ranging from analysts following the bigger companies share price movements, reports on likely growth in the dog oncology testing market through to 2025 and news of retiring orthopaedic surgeons in Milwaukee.

One more time, my business is in the European medtech market, and what I am looking for over my morning mug of tea is information to allow me to do my job better and, ultimately, make a living. So, I am really interested in that 5% that touches on things that I already know about or, better still, actually tells me something new that I can follow up in more detail. But, and this is really important, I know (and have often met) many of the people in the news that I read. This means that I can set material in context and make some judgements about the motives behind what I am reading.

For instance, some of the superficially interesting stuff is, on deeper review, “noise”. Longer articles telling me what I (and you) already know: malaria is bad, Ebola is worse and you really want to know if the feverish patient in your office has it right now; being able to detect aggressive cancer before it is too late to do anything about it is a very good thing indeed although you do not necessarily need to know quite as instantly as you do with your Ebola patient.

The really juicy stuff is rare, maybe only a handful of articles in a good month. This is material that either adds a piece to the jigsaw that you already have and allows you to interpret the picture more coherently, or, better still, shows you that there is a whole new puzzle out there that you never knew existed.

As I have a more than passing understanding of what is being shown to me I can put it into context and make judgements based on that knowledge: that fundraising round looks substantial but it is about a third of what they need to bring a product to market; your award looks great on the shelf in the Boardroom but 60% of the companies who pick it up do not survive to reach the 3rd anniversary of picking the prize up; that new CEO you have just appointed would not have been most people’s first choice and you knew that so why did you sign on the dotted line?

Anyway, back to the point that I started with. What really set me off over the holidays were some LinkedIn “articles”: reformatted press releases in some sort of list format explaining in mangled English that these “Are the Companies to Watch in 2019!” Bonus points were clearly on offer for generic stock pictures illustrating the piece with a “Scientist in a White Coat” doing something that NONE OF THE COMPANIES IN THE ARTICLE ACTUALLY DO. It was clearly vitally important not to check any of the statements made as there were holes that you could drive a bus through (top tip: do not rely on six-month-old press releases for a current appreciation of any organisation).

On further review, the companies appearing in these items were either already clients of the people doing the writing or the people doing the writing want them to be their clients. Better still the comments – oh the comments – entire HR and marketing departments expressing wonder over such perceptive commentary (especially one suspects because they didn’t have to pay for it).

The writers of these pieces appear to be people who were colouring pictures of words in at primary school when I started Snedden Campbell and whose own parents were still at school when I entered this godforsaken trade. One can only assume that they were told to write this stuff by a CEO who wanted to keep them out of trouble for a day or so and had the marketing budget to spare.

So there you are then. Spend time researching and reviewing stuff – tumbleweed – copy out a press release and they are beating your door down. What conclusions can we reach?

Honestly, I have no idea…


*What were we all thinking?

Posted on: 7th January 2019 by Ivor Campbell

Into his fourth decade of search Ivor has a voice with stories to tell, observations to make and the odd picture to share. Mostly related to the day job.

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