|August 21, 2010|
|IPR Says Tylenol PR Questions are 'Conspiracy Theory'|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Institute for PR chief Bob Grupp dismissed as "conspiracy theory" this website and others' questioning of the veracity of Johnson & Johnson's response to the 1982 Tylenol crisis as the "gold standard" of PR crisis communications.|
Grupp, after this website asked Institute leadership to re-examine the Tylenol episode, posted a response on the Institute's blog on Wednesday but did not address the facts of the case.
He instead repeated IPR boilerplate about the "science beneath the art of public relations" and noted "as with so many topics today, it seems there's a conspiracy theory surrounding the Tylenol recall."
As noted by this website and others in the field -- including crisis counselors Eric Dezenhall, James Lukaszewski and Helio Fred Garcia, to name a few -- Johnson & Johnson did not immediately recall Tylenol from store shelves, as is often contended. J&J responded several days later in removing the product, expanding a recall that was initially localized in Chicago.
The false narrative has circulated for years, notably in the Hollywood film "The Insider." Recent appearances in media include the NY Times May 3, 2010 ("fast and adept"); Christian Science Monitor Jan. 15, 2010 ("shining example of corporate responsibility"); Fortune mag May 28, 2007 ("gold standard in crisis control"), and the Economist April 10, 2010 ("gold standard of crisis management").
Seven people died from consuming Tylenol capsules poisoned with cyanide in a case that remains unsolved. The first death came on Sept. 29. The recall occurred Oct. 5.
Following is an email from Jack O'Dwyer to IPR leadership:
Hi Arthur, Bob and Mike:
I urge you take a careful look at the research I have done on Tylenol before jumping to conclusions or avoiding this issue which is very current because of media's constant citing of Tylenol as PR's No. 1 success story.
I'm very interested in and sympathetic to research because that's all we do all day long.
My question is whether there is anything scientific about PR.
The Institute for PR talks about "the science beneath the art of PR" and applying "scientific rigor" but it turns a deaf ear to all my recent research on PR's No. 1 success story, J&J's handling of the Tylenol murders in 1982 and 1986.
Major media unfailingly praise J&J's behavior including the NY Times May 3, 2010 ("fast and adept"); Christian Science Monitor Jan. 15, 2010 ("shining example of corporate responsibility"); Fortune mag May 28, 2007 ("gold standard in crisis control"); Economist April 10, 2010 ("gold standard of crisis management"); Wikipedia.com (J&J's "quick response" has become "the gold standard for corporate crisis management"); fool.com of Motley Fool May 6, 2010 (J&J's handling of Tylenol murders "has always been the poster child for how to handle a crisis"); Tactics of PRSA in 2007 (full page praising J&J for "an enduring example of crisis management done right").
Most disappointing in the academic world is the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, when told its description of J&J and Tylenol ("conducted an immediate product recall" and "put public safety first") was at least suspect if not entirely wrong, said it will not change its opinion until others do including the Chicago Sun-Times and Economic Assn. Int'l.
Upsetting this applecart is Prof. Tony Jaques of RMIT Univ., Melbourne, who say in the Winter 2010 PR Journal of PRSA hosted by Don Wright of Boston University that Tylenol should never have been marketed in the first place in easily doctored capsules (and definitely not after seven murders).
Jaques says the five days it took for J&J to order a withdrawal was not "immediate" even in 1982; J&J's paltry reward of only $100,000 was its way of ducking responsibility for the murders, and J&J tried as much as possible to hide behind "McNeil Labs," using that name or just identifying itself as the "maker of Tylenol."
Copious information that the Tylenol murders was an inside job has been compiled by nine-year J&J employee Scott Bartz and is to be published in "The Tylenol Mafia" soon. I have carried large sections of the manuscript on the O'Dwyer website.
So far the Institute wants nothing to do with this research.
Scientists are boundlessly curious and totally thorough in anything they do. I do not see IPR behaving this way. Scientists would never turn a deaf ear or blind eye to new information or explanations.
If you can show me any scientific content in PR I would like to hear about it. What I see is a lot of politics.
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