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Student work aids understanding of ME

Published: 15th July 2009

THOUSANDS of people will be have a better understanding of the debilitating condition ME through new ideas put forward by MMU students.

ME Awareness Week in May 2010 should enjoy a high profile after strategic marketing input from a team on the Masters programme in International Public Relations.

The four-strong team produced a report for the ME Association as part of the developing professional practice unit which Masters students undertake at MMU Business School.

So impressed was the Association that its Board of Trustees plan to adopt the report as a basis for long term communications strategy. And they intend to incorporate the students’ ideas into next year’s ME Awareness Week which runs from May 9-16.

Excellent research

A spokesperson said: "The MMU report includes some excellent research and should allow us to implement an even stronger plan for this year’s campaign."

The team of Heather Roberts, Hannah Kirkpatrick, Elaine Ofori and Koga Shinichiro carried out extensive research into media coverage and public awareness of ME, as well as investigating the wants and concerns of people with ME through ME community websites and chatrooms.

They found limited public understanding of what ME is, confusion with other
terms, and that the use of the term 'Yuppie Flu' in some news media caused particular lack of understanding, as well as distress to people who have ME.

The result was a full PR and Communciations strategy to raise awareness of ME and the ME Association, using a multi-pronged plan including:

Media coverage

- Educate ME to raise public awareness;
- Hear ME aimed at building a network of local support groups;
- The Real ME, to gain more realistic media coverage by educating journalists about the reality of ME.

Dr Jane Tonge, Senior Lecturer in Marketing Communications, said: "The Developing Professional Practice unit is a great opportunity for postgraduate students to work on a real business project with an external client. It gives them valuable hands-on experience which helps refine their professional skills such as team working, project management and business research.

"Our team is to be congratulated on a superb strategy which focuses on the message that ME is about the people who have it.

"I’m delighted their hard work has brought such tangible benefits to the organisation."

www.meassociation.org.uk

ME, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, is a debilitating disease which affects the immune, musculoskeletal, endocrine (hormonal) and cardiovascular systems.