And the award for "best spin in the face of the truth" goes to . . . Kathryn Johnson, head of the American Hospital Association's Health Forum.
On May 18 and 19 Johnson's group, along with Salomon Smith Barney and the Healthcare Financial Management Association, sponsored a conference of not-for-profit healthcare investors in New York. Problem is, they forgot to check the calendar first: Their inaugural dog-and-pony show for Wall Street fell on the same days as the annual meeting of the National Federation of Municipal Analysts--a big part of the audience the hospitals want to reach.
"We found it very bizarre," says NFMA Chairwoman Dina Kennedy. "The NFMA represents all the buyers (of healthcare debt) in the country, and we had a very strong attendance." She says 170 NFMA members attended its meeting in Miami Beach.
Sponsors of the healthcare event--which was by invitation only--initially said they expected "250 to 300" people to attend (April 10, p. 116). But the two-day conference drew fewer than 200 investors and analysts.
Johnson admits that her office was unaware of the conflict with the NFMA event until after the dates were set, but she maintains that the conflict did not affect attendance. "We were absolutely delighted with our very large turnout," she says, adding that another investor conference is being planned for next year.
Hmmm. How much would you like to bet that next year's conference doesn't fall on the same days as the NFMA annual meeting--and that attendance comes closer to estimates?
If every crowd were so easy. You gotta love Marie Osmond: She hasn't been in the spotlight for most of her life for nothing.
Last month she even had the usually hard-boiled national press corps eating out of her hands.
Osmond, 40, addressed the National Press Club in Washington May 31 as founder of Children's Miracle Network, which raises money for children's healthcare and research. Her agenda that day was to push for building more hospitals devoted strictly to caring for children.
By the way the usually crusty press corps reacted--with friendly laughter and rapt attention--you can guess that if the journalists in the audience had the power, a lot more children's hospitals would be built in short order.
Osmond told the assembled journalists that she became interested in children's healthcare when she became a mother. She has seven children, two of whom are adopted.
Osmond said she's had to make trips to the emergency room with her children, "but most of those visits were for minor things: ankles swollen, caterpillars swallowed, erasers up noses," she added, eliciting some chuckles.
But it was a much scarier incident with one of her children, who had severe asthma, that persuaded Osmond to start the children's charity.
Saying she hadn't planned on sharing her story, Osmond nonetheless told the hushed crowd of about 200 that while on tour in the early 1980s, her son had an asthma attack. The usual medication wasn't helping him, and she told her bus driver to "break every land and speed record" to get them to a hospital. Her son is OK today.
"I felt this panic," Osmond said, choking up and pausing before she continued, the room hanging on her every word. "That's why children's hospitals are there, and I'm here today.
"And this," she said, wiping her eyes, "is why I don't speak, I sing."
The audience laughed, the tension was broken and Marie Osmond had conquered yet another audience.
Awareness is awareness. When it comes to drumming up public awareness and support, not all illnesses are created equal. Some have high-profile spokespeople like Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox. Some don't.
The skin disease scleroderma, which attacks a person's connective tissue and internal organs, doesn't have Superman or one of America's favorite television stars. But now it does have something unique in its P.R. arsenal--a Playboy playmate.
Thanks to its newly anointed spokesperson--Playboy's March 1992 playmate Tylan John--scleroderma may soon be the beneficiary of a little more attention. John hopes her short-lived fame will help brighten the spotlight cast on the potentially life-threatening disease she was diagnosed with late last year.
Characterized by an overabundance of collagen, the substance often used to inject skin with a more youthful vigor, scleroderma can seriously damage internal organs including the heart, lungs and kidneys. It reportedly afflicts some 300,000 people, most of them women.
"This is a disease that has many forms, with people often suffering in silence," John said in a press release issued by the Scleroderma Foundation. "I hope to put a face behind the disease."
The Scleroderma Foundation and Playboy Enterprises believe the increased attention John brings to the disease will help fund research efforts.