Before the crisis, Tylenol was the most popular over-the-counter product in the United States with over one hundred million users. Tylenol was accountable for 19 percent of Johnson & Johnson’s corporate profits during the first 3 quarters of 1982. But after seven unsuspecting people died a horrible death, Johnson & Johnson, parent company of McNeil Consumer Products Company which makes Tylenol, suddenly, and with no warning, had to explain to the world why its trusted product was suddenly killing people
The Johnson & Johnson Tylenol crisis is an example of how an organization should communicate with the various public’s during a crisis. The organization’s management set the example from the beginning by making public safety the establishment’s number one concern. This is particularity central given the fact that Johnson & Johnson’s key task with Tylenol is to enhance the public’s well-being or heath.
A post crisis study by Johnson & Johnson said that over 90 percent of the American population had heard of the Chicago deaths due to cyanide-laced Tylenol within the first week of the crisis.
Johnson & Johnson also used the media, both PR and paid advertising to communicate their strategy during the crisis. Johnson & Johnson used the media to issue a national alert to tell the public not to use the Tylenol product. Johnson & Johnson chairman, James Burke, reacted to the negative media coverage by forming a seven-member strategy team.
Rectification, Sympathy, and Remediation were all Forgiveness strategies that helped them within their crisis. Johnson & Johnson provided the victim’s families counseling and financial assistance even though they were not responsible for the product tampering. Negative feelings by the public against Johnson & Johnson were lessened as the media showed them take positive actions to help the victim’s families.
Johnson & Johnson’s failure to employ/establish a positive relationship with the media, a key stakeholder, forced the company to respond to the crisis in an advertising-like manner. Today Johnson & Johnson has completely recovered its market share lost during the crisis.
The organization was able to reestablish the Tylenol brand name as one to the most trusted over-the-counter consumer products in American. Johnson & Johnson’s handing of the Tylenol crisis is clearly the example other companies should follow if the find themselves on the brink of losing everything. Johnson & Johnson took action to prevent a recurrence of the crisis in the future.
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