As I reported on Wednesday, the British Heart Foundation's new report advocating the use of plain packaging tanked, media wise.
Worse, it was openly mocked by Politics.co.uk whose editor Ian Dunt wrote, New plain packs 'evidence' is worthy of a laugh and little else.
In a desperate bid to retrieve the situation Cancer Research UK pitched in and issued its own press release:
The graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging are twice as likely to catch the eye of smokers when printed on non-branded packaging, a UK charity’s report claims.
See Health warnings clearer on plain cigarette packs (CRUK).
Did that get any publicity? Er, nope.
Even the nation's notoriously one-eyed health correspondents can recognise a dud, especially when it has to be promoted on consecutive days by two separate organisations in the hope it might drum up some coverage.
More interesting, perhaps, is the fact that CRUK's press release was issued on Wednesday "in collaboration with the Press Association" even though the PA had already issued a report based on the BHF's original press release.
I know this because one of the two newspaper reports that did appear was credited to Josie Clarke, the PA's consumer affairs correspondent. See Tobacco branding warning from BHF (Herald).
The second report, in the Glasgow Evening Times, was credited to political editor Stewart Paterson but it was clearly based on the PA/Herald report. (See New call for plain cigs packets.)
Neither report included a comment from Forest although we sent our response to both Josie Clarke and the PA news desk at 13:32 on Tuesday, minutes after we received a copy of the BHF press release which was embargoed until 00:01hrs on Wednesday.
Assuming Josie saw it she either ignored it or the Herald/Times edited out our comments. All I know is, the reports published in the Herald and Evening Times were both extremely one-sided with no attempt at balance.
Anyway, I'm more interested in CRUK's relationship with Britain's number one news agency.
Dick Puddlecote was the first to spot the phrase "in collaboration with the Press Association" on a CRUK press release.
I'm not aware of any other organisation that uses it on their press releases and it raises a number of questions.
One, was the content of the press release written by a PA employee? Two, was it approved by the PA? Three, does the PA endorse the (one-sided) content?
I can't shed any light on that but I can reveal that the Press Association owns a company called Sticky Content that I'm told produces CRUK’s press releases.
According to the company's website:
Sticky Content helps the world's biggest brands to plan, create and deliver content that gets results. We are content strategists and consultants, digital copywriters and trained journalists. We are clever with content.
Apparently the Press Association acquired the company in October 2013. Clients listed on the website include Thomson, John Lewis, O2 and RBS.
Under 'Health and pharmaceutical' it lists Novartis and Bupa, among others.
Under 'Government and not for profit' it lists RNIB, Just Giving, British Red Cross and Action for Children.
I can't find any mention of Cancer Research yet there it is at the top of CRUK's press release, "In collaboration with the Press Association". (Not Sticky Content, note, but "the Press Association".)
What does this say about the PA and its commitment to impartial, balanced journalism?
I'll leave you to judge.
PS. In April 2013, before the PA's acquisition of Sticky Content, I wrote this post, Memo to the Press Association.
By and large Forest enjoys an OK relationship with the PA. News editors are invariably helpful and friendly.
I must ask them, though, how much Sticky Content would charge to write our press releases, whether we could include the phrase "in collaboration with the Press Association" on them, and whether there are any other benefits.