Case Study: Tylenol Murders

PR in Practice Shannon, David, Eli, Amy, Jill

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

What Happened?
— September 30, 1982 – Chicago, IL and surrounding

area
— Seven people die suddenly after ingesting Extra-

Strength Tylenol capsules
— Investigation confirmed unknown person/persons

replaced contents of eight bottles with cyanidelaced capsules
(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

What Happened?
— McNeil Consumer Products – subsidiary of

Johnson & Johnson – makers of Tylenol
— Found out about crisis when reporter contacted PR

department for comment

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

What Happened?
Before crisis Tylenol was: — Most successful over-the-counter product in US – more than 100M users — Responsible for 19% of J&J’s profits in first three quarters — More than 10% of J&J’s year-to year sales growth — More than 30% of J&J’s year-to-year profit — Annual revenue of ~ $1.2M — Controlled 30% of market share
— Immediately fell to 7%
(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

What Guided the Decisions?
— Crisis communications at the time — Johnson & Johnson’s Credo

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

What Guided the Decisions?
“We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use out products and services.”
— —

1st responsibility: Safety of the public

Honesty and full disclosure to media and public — Operational follow through on 1st responsibility

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

What Guided the Decisions?
“They must have a sense of security in their jobs.”

2nd responsibility: Employees

“Our final responsibility is to our stockholders.”

3rd responsibility: Shareholders

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

What Did They Do Well?
— — — — —

Put people first Worked with the media and law enforcement Were willing to change their practices Used the Chairman as the spokesperson Used openness and full disclosure

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

Would J&J Succeed in the Age of Social Media?
— Time Management — Resources to monitor media — Future accessibility to today's message — Fractured audiences

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

Would J&J Succeed in the Age of Social Media?
Pros of Social Media Crisis Communication:
— — — —

Reach a mass audience instantly Target specific interested audiences Update information quickly without intermediaries Voice of comfort

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

Would J&J Succeed in the Age of Social Media?
— Research effectiveness of social media in disaster — — — — — — — — —

communication Use experts in data Begin introducing your company to social media now Get user feedback Do you have: leadership buy-in, sustainability, IT/access issues? Research how to communicate if electronics are out Partner with potential interested parties (in case of J&J it would be medical associations, drug stores, etc.) Keep your posting relevant; don’t bore or overload the audience Develop the social media you can manage rather than doing it all BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

What Are The Implications for PR?

One of the greatest success stories in crisis communications "The Tylenol crisis is without a doubt the most exemplary case ever known in the history of crisis communications. Any business executive, who has ever stumbled into a public relations ambush, ought to appreciate the way Johnson & Johnson responded to the Tylenol poisonings. They have effectively demonstrated how major business has to handle a disaster." (Berge, 1990, p.19)

Berge, T. (1990). The First 24-Hours. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, Inc.
(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

What Are The Implications for PR?

Set the bar for other companies

Maple Leaf Foods – Listeria Outbreak – August 2008
PR Week article: Maple Leaf's approach (which has included quick product recalls, as well as full-page newspaper ads, TV spots, Web site updates, and frequent press conferences) is very similar to the “gold standard” of crisis communication taught in PR at the University of Toronto: the Tylenol tampering of 1982. “They have spoken to the media right away, acknowledged what happened, and what they know, and what they plan to do about it.”
Daniels, C. (2008, Aug.29). Maple Leaf Foods crisis comms met with some praise. prweekus.com. Retrieved Nov.29, 2009, from http://www.prweekus.com/maple-leaf-foods-crisis-comms-met-withsome-praise/article/116056/ (C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

Thank You!

QUESTIONS?

(C) 2009 Shannon, David, Eli, Amy and Jill

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