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ADA / IDM Breakup – You Heard it Here First

Will CareCredit be the Next ADA Subsidiary to Fail?

I saw a warning sign last week.

By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS pruitt

My aggressive writing hobby has understandably brought me in hard contact with public relations people whose job is to insulate good ol’ boys from accountability – even if it means taking hits for the team and staining their reputations. Let’s face the fact we all of us involved in public relations know but don’t dare discuss: Depending on the ethics of one’s employer, PR professionals are sometimes used up like expendable pawns. And avoiding bylines for press releases no longer shields anyone from accountability.

I often silently stalk PR employees (Gasp!) on the Internet who work for sleazy companies just to better understand them. I’ve discovered that it is not hard to find and exploit the weaknesses of those whose heart isn’t behind selling their employer’s product. Sometimes all it takes is a fistful of transparency to cause defenseless representatives to completely shut up, and that alone makes our neighborhood safer. Committee-approved methods of evasion are as simple-minded as committees, so it doesn’t take long to figure them out – exposing the shameful ethics of those who sign off on the use of lame, institutional trickery.

For example, here’s a very popular, traditional PR trick: If a huge business entity such as the ADA has bad news they can no longer keep secret from customers, professional PR-types will advise their bosses to post bad news on a Friday to soften the blow. When traditional leaders find that they can no longer sidestep accountability, delaying accountability until a busy news day is the next best thing one can purchase. Even though the tricks seem simple, there are people who study evasion science as part of obtaining a degree in marketing.

So how good is the ADA’s PR team? How much time did ADA members’ employees buy for leaders before they had to quietly acknowledge an expensive failure?

On July 10, a Friday, “ADA/idm to phase out service” was posted on ADA News Online without a byline. (Another PR trick: When the ADA posts an orphan without a name, it means someone is ashamed of the bastard.)

http://www.ada.org/prof/resources/pubs/adanews/adanewsarticle.asp?articleid=3655

ADA Business Enterprises, Inc. (ADABEI), a wholly owned ADA subsidiary, announced today that ADA Intelligent Dental Marketing (ADAidm) of Salt Lake City, one of its joint venture companies, is no longer able to provide marketing services to its customers due to significant production and operational difficulties.”

Now the ADA must refund money to members in a depressed market. Could this embarrassment for our professional organization have been quietly avoided instead of delayed and magnified? I personally started seeing clues of CEO Trajan King’s reticence long ago, and warned ADA leaders in Chicago about my concerns. Nobody ever responded to my numerous, sincere warnings.

These are highly critical times on Capitol Hill and our patients trust us to represent their welfare. Dentists are their last hope, because there is nobody else who cares. Practicing dentists are solely responsible for assuring the benevolence of our niche market, and we are losing control publicly. Disasters like the ADA/IDM make the ADA look foolish to Congress, and word gets around fast on the Internet.

This morning, I read an article posted on The NY Times titled “Study Measures the Chatter of the News Cycle, “ written by Steve Lohr.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/technology/internet/13influence.html?_r=1

Researchers at Cornell used powerful computers and sophisticated algorithms to accomplish an unprecedented analysis of news articles and comments on the Web during the 2008 presidential campaign. They studied the characteristics of the news cycle by scanning 1.6 million mainstream media sites and blogs for repeated phrases and tracking the history of their appearances.

Lohr writes: “The researchers’ data points to an evolving model of news media. While most news flowed from the traditional media to the blogs, the study found that 3.5 percent of story lines originated in the blogs and later made their way to traditional media.”

The study also shows that traditional news outlets are still quicker than blogs by 2.5 hours. I should now point out that the Cornell study was performed using data from very popular, huge news items collected during a presidential election – not hidden, niche news like dentistry’s.

If you are involved in the dental industry, where are you more likely to read time-sensitive news about our profession first? In an ADA publication, or from D. Kellus Pruitt; DDS?

Whereas traditional media is 2.5 hours quicker with popular topics, I scooped traditional ADA News Online by three weeks when I posted “ADA/idm – A bad union after all?” on the PennWell forum.

http://community.pennwelldentalgroup.com/forum/topics/adaidm-a-bad-union-after-all

So what about the warning sign I saw concerning CareCredit – a wholly-owned subsidiary of the ADA?

When Trajan King, former CEO of the defunct ADA/IDM partnership refused to acknowledge my questions, I immediately suspected something was terribly wrong with the union of my non-profit professional organization and his for-profit Utah advertisement company. Six months later, my fears were confirmed. Now then, I hope it grabs someone’s attention that I see the same warning signs coming from the ADA’s CareCredit business. Note this date: July 13, 2009.

On Thursday, July 9, CareCredit purchased a press release on dentalblogs.com: “CareCredit Adds 24-Month, No-Interst [sic] Payment Plan” (no byline).

http://www.dentalblogs.com

Since dental problems only get worse, I consider the idea of extending credit to dental patients is a benevolent thought during these hard financial times. I also say that the offer appears to have been put together out of generosity and not greed like the ADA/IDM disaster. However, at 4:54 pm on the same day that CareCredit’s press release was posted, I submitted a difficult question for the anonymous author of the piece who works PR for CareCredit – and is an ADA employee.

“If the Red Flags Rule is not delayed for the third time in three weeks, how will it affect those who offer Care Credit?”

I was given the hopeful response “Your comment is awaiting moderation,” but days later there is no sign that my question is being considered at all. Please, oh please ask yourself: What could CareCredit leaders be hiding and how much will it end up costing ADA membership?

I will not be ignored by anyone. Today, I submitted two follow-up questions on dentalblogs.com. I considered warning the anonymous moderator that this is being simulposted on other blogs, as well as described on Twitter, but then I thought, why spoil the fun? Let the leaders of the ADA Business Enterprises, Inc. (ADABEI) get word of my e-Attack from their colleagues. Won’t they be surprised!

Oh, and for those who are wondering what happened to ADA/IDM CEO Trajan King – he quit.

Dear Dentalblogs.com moderator:

On July 9 at 4:54 pm, I submitted a sincere question concerning how the Red Flags Rule will affect ADA members who sign up for CareCredit. Instead of posting it with the promise of an answer, you regretfully chose to censor an ADA member. Today, July 13, I have a second and third question: Why did you ignore my first one and who is your boss?

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