The hypocrisy police were out in force online yesterday, trying to portray Paula Deen as the poster child for unhealthy living in the wake of the butter goddess’ announcement that she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes three years ago. Deen also revealed that she has teamed-up with drug-maker Novo Nordisk to promote healthy recipes for diabetics and pitch their diabetes drug (see: Diabetes in a New Light).
“Diabetic Scam Artists” was typical of the news and blog headlines screaming across the Web, as people lambasted Deen for “hiding” her condition in order to continue to peddle her high-fat, high-sugar treats on her food shows.
By dealing with a very personal matter and deciding to leverage her substantial media presence to help other diabetes sufferers, Deen should be considered the poster child for enjoying life in moderation, personal responsibility, and free enterprise – seemingly outrageous notions to Paula Deen’s competitors and opponents. I don’t recall hearing their hue and cry in the past over ads featuring blues legend B.B. King as a paid spokesman for diabetes tests.
From a PR perspective, there is one significant mistake Paula Deen did make in her announcement, and it is one of timing. She clearly should have made public her condition prior to announcing her deal with Novo Nordisk. While she should be able to set her own terms for how she publicly reveals her diagnosis, it was a big mistake to announce it at the same time that she has inked a deal to be a paid spokesman for a drug-maker.
The following link is a transcript and video of a live interview I conducted on the subject on HLN’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell: HLN Transcript, HLN Video. (While waiting to conduct my interview, I noted how CNN was running an ad for Novo Nordisk diabetes test kits.)
The way I see it, Paula Deen did the right thing for the following reasons:
- Deen has always been genuine and forthright – the source of her great brand: Deen has been forthright with her viewers that she features rich and delicious food. As a result, her fans trust her and relate to her as the “Queen of Cuisine” and a “southern mama.” Deen’s fans will, in turn, very likely trust her advice to take healthy steps in their lives if they suffer from diabetes.
- Deen has always advised her viewers to enjoy good food but in moderation: Deen has been quoted as saying, “Honey, I’m your cook, not your doctor. You’re going to have to be responsible for yourself,” in advising a balanced lifestyle.
- Deen encountered a dramatic change in her life and lifestyle because of diabetes: She is now using that experience and her media empire to help save lives. She has already begun to do so through Novo Nordisk’s website, which is promoting healthy recipes from Deen.
What Deen’s opponents are missing is that we live in a free-market, consumer-driven society. If you are concerned about the effect on your health caused by eating Whoppers, then do not order home delivery from Burger King (see: For $2 Burger King Will Come to You). If people are concerned about Paula Deen putting them at risk of diabetes, then they can choose to change the channel to “The Biggest Loser” or any number of related programs.
Paula Deen has taught people to enjoy life for a long time, and now she will use her extensive platform to teach many people to enjoy a longer, healthier life. The naysayers who are attacking her decision to team-up with Novo Nordisk three years after her diagnosis don’t know Deen and don’t know the very important principle of personal responsibility.
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