I’ve always been a little unsure about the wisdom of the PCPIE (Patient Carer and Public Involvement and Engagement) acronym that is increasingly used to describe what we do. Two reservations often expressed about patient and public involvement (PPI) are that it’s a passing phase of political correctness (that’s the “PC” bit) and an activity as wholesome and appealing to universally-held beliefs as motherhood and apple pie (this is not usually said with an approving smile).
So whenever I see PCPIE, I mildly wish that the acronym invention team might go back to the drawing board. Until last weekend, when I spent a couple of days in Poznan in Poland, a spectacularly beautiful city, visiting a friend’s new business.
WLT (an acronym for three Polish words that translate literally to “traditionally-made ice cream”) has been a runaway success since it launched 18 months ago. And their business model made me think what a lot we could learn about creating really successful PPI.
First, they have a very small offering – just three basic flavours every day plus one ice cream and one sorbet that change daily*. The PPI world is snowballing and there’s a real risk that the market is flooded with so many flavours that we end up not being able to make any of them very well. We recognised this a year or so ago when setting out to create our strategy which is basically a plan to do a few things well, rather than try to do it all.
Second, their marketing is extremely modest: one billboard near the shop, and a Facebook page with 50,000 likes to date. That’s 10% of the population of the city. How nice to think that 10% of the City of Oxford might like this blog…
And most important: the taste. They make and sell ice cream, and that’s pretty much all they do, brilliantly well. Taste it once and you know you’ll do so again: they see the same people on a regular basis, and at 7pm on an October evening they still had pretty much the same length queue outside the shop as they’d had all day. Seeing a business thrive like this made me realise yet again how to succeed in PPI: make people want to come back for more because they are rewarded by their first taste.
We know from many sources that patients find few things more off-putting than never being told what happened to their input; never being thanked; feeling somehow that they – and their ideas – were taken for granted.
So perhaps after all I’ll accept that PCPIE is a good name for what we do – but it’s an anagram not an acronym. ICE is the appealing, simple yet powerful business model, in the mix with the two Ps – Patients and the Public.
* In case you are wondering, chocolate, strawberry and a very subtle cream every day, and among the special flavours, a truly amazing meringue, date and caramel and a sorbet with passion fruit and carrot. Passion and carrots. Another recipe for PPI. So much better than sticks.