When Internet PR goes bad

Earlier today I saw Dave Gorman had posted on twitter about a Guardian piece with Neals Yard Remedies turning back on an agreement to answer some questions from the Guardian community I was quietly hopeful that Neals Yard would respond and answer some of the questions, most specifically about their homeopathic ethics.

The whole thing turned into a Neals Yard bashing thread unfortunately, yes mostly due to them not responding to any questions, but is the way to promote a response by posting things like “I was picturing two grumpy hippies pacing around Covent Garden, one saying to the other, ‘what the f*** did you agree to this for?‘” or “I notice you sell kaolin. If I eat enough of it, will I be able to shit crockery?“. Whilst these are amusing all the same if the topic hadn’t gone completely mad I think there would have been a better response from Neal’s Yard, however I do agree that they probably have caused most of the later furore themselves.

I probably should have prepared my comment a bit better, as there were some good questions posted early on, but I still believe a lot of the comments were dismissive and agressive in their manner. The one I wanted answering was: I believe you advise/instruct your practitioners not to advocate homeopathy over seeing a GP and so on, but how do you police this? As far as I know all consultations are done in complete private with no measures put in place to control practitioners that choose to ignore your advice, hence potentially putting lives at risk.. If anyone would like to answer this, please do!

I pointed out there seems to be no middle ground in this arena, which again seems to be proven right. I don’t mean middle ground in the discussion, what I mean is there is never a “live and let live attitude” in the discussions. When it is turns into a game of scientific study tennis as Guardian threads and often real life discussion usually become, I’ve started to get really irritated. What really irritates me is when one side (or the other) continue to shout about their point of view even if you try to respectfully withdraw from the topic – just get on with your life and leave me alone! Maybe this is what Neals Yard Remedies should have tried.

However the point of this post is not about the ethics of homeopathy nor Neal’s Yard in general, but about a minor instance of web censorship!

The Guardian discussion drove people to the Neal’s Yard Facebook page and prompted a change of the NYR Wikipedia entry to record their notable absence from the discussion they agreed to take part in. The Facebook page was most interesting because people began posting their questions and criticism for not taking part in the discussion here – all of which have promptly been deleted by Neal’s Yard.

In my opinion, this u-turn in taking part in “You ask, they answer” on the Guardian web site has hurt Neal’s Yard more than posting some answers, even if it turned into the usual homeopath vs the world argument. Stopping all posts followed by deleting comments on your Facebook page is most likely a business decision. They can’t have their un-educated customers visit their Facebook page and be put off by people driven there due to backing out of a discussion. This has led to those asking the questions being annoyed and many were calling for a follow up Guardian piece to find out why and what scared Neals Yard out of their agreement to answer reader questions. Were the questions too difficult, did they have no answers, could they not promote their products successfully in their responses? If anything I think it is probably the last point and their original plan has back-fired. Good in my opinion because they are as bad as big pharma in my opinion, just a business focussed on making profits and ethics come secondary. And they treat their staff like rubbish!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *