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Beware the pandemic PR schemes

Beware the pandemic  PR schemes Beware the pandemic  PR schemes

“Don’t Let Your Pandemic Diet Cost You Hair Loss.”

That’s the headline on the e-mail that made it through the spam blocker on my work computer.

“Oh, great. As if I don’t have enough to worry about with this whole COVID-19 thing. Now I might lose my hair?”

That’s the response the sender of the email wanted me and others to have upon receiving it. In fact, they wanted you to be so alarmed or intrigued that you opened the email and started clicking on links.

The fact that the email itself came from a website called “News & Experts” adds to the idea that you should really take this seriously. I mean, if an “expert” is telling you that you’re in danger of losing your hair, you should really pay attention, right?

At this point, I want you to picture me “blowing a raspberry,” i.e. making a sound resembling flatulence meant to convey disgust or dismissal. (Kids do it all the time, and more than a few adults.) All it takes is a quick Google search to find out that “News & Experts” is actually a public relations firm that “guarantees” media coverage for their clients. In the case of the unsolicited email they just sent me, they were trying to promote a book written by a doctor called The Science and Art of Hair Restoration: A Patient’s Guide.

The flimsy premise of the email is that people are trying to prevent weight loss while staying at home during the pandemic, and in doing so, they may be depriving themselves of vital nutrients and caloric intake needed for good hair health. If you are actually losing hair because of an extreme crash diet, my guess is you need more help than advice such as “get plenty of protein.”

Really, this email — and hundreds or thousands like it — are all about exploiting the anxiety surrounding COVID-19 and using it to hawk products. This isn’t anything new. When I researched the Spanish flu from 100 years ago, Vicks Vapo Rub ads were all over the place, falsely claiming to be a cure-all for a disease that would kill you no matter how much vaseline you rubbed on your chest.

A century later, these ad campaigns are much more sophisticated, but I sincerely hope that we as a society are as well. The email I mentioned above is a good example. If you were to read past the headline and the dime store diet advice, I’d hope you’d realize that it’s all about selling a dubious “hair restoration guide” written by a plastic surgeon looking to drum up business.

The irony is, I’m giving this hack some free coverage by writing this column. But, my hope is that at least one or two people who read it will be more vigilant when it comes to scams and sales pitches during these crazy times.