|May 9, 2010|
|Prof Says J&J Ignored PR Rules|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Prof. Bolanle Olaniran of Texas Tech University told us that Johnson & Johnson ignored "the anticipatory model of crisis management" in re-introducing Tylenol capsules in 1982 after seven people died from poisoned Tylenols.|
Olaniran (pictured) said that the capsules could be corrupted by pulling them apart and introducing new contents or by doing the same via a hypodermic needle.
Once the capsules were used as a murder weapon, they should no longer have been marketed, he said.
Even using them when tamper-proof tablets were available was not acceptable, said Oliniran, who was reached by phone at TTU where he is interim chair and professor in the Dept. of Communications Studies.
He is disappointed that business and general media and PR trade associations invariably refer to J&J's handling of the Tylenol disaster as a triumph for marketing.
Had J&J followed the anticipatory model of crisis management, in which a company learns from its mistakes, it would never have rushed back to the market in six weeks with Tylenol capsules in "tamper-resistant" bottles, he said.
Olaniran expressed dismay at the remark in the May 3 New York Times that, "J&J is considered a model in the consumer products industry for its fast and adept handling of a Tylenol scare in 1982..."
The quote was in a "news analysis" article by NYT reporter Natasha Singer.
Our view is that the courageous, consumer-oriented thing for J&J to have done in 1982 was to switch to tablet-only delivery of Tylenol even though none of its competitors did the same thing. It would have taken a big hit in market share but instead chose to go the route that cost the life of 23-year-old Diane Elsroth in 1986. Only then did J&J swear off use of capsules.
Olaniran was one of the critics of J&J quoted in a study of the Tylenol recall in the Winter online "PR Journal" of the PR Society of America. Author of the study is Tony Jaques of RMIT University, Australia.
Olaniran, a native of Nigeria, has a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma and an M.B.A. and B.B.A. from Central State University. An American citizen, his area of specialization is organizational communication, small group, computer-mediate communications, and intercultural communication.
Ad Age, Florida Univ. Laud J&J
The May 3 Advertising Age has a column by Al Ries in which he says that despite the predictions of doom for Tylenol in 1982 the brand revived and "Tylenol is back bigger than ever. It's the No. 1 drugstore over-the-counter brand."
Ries does not go into the whirlwind of spin and framing by J&J that enabled Tylenol to do this.
Like a magician distracting an audience with one hand while doing a trick with another, J&J focused all the attention on the packaging when the culprit was the easily-spiked capsule itself.
Regrettably, the media went along with this fairy tale and most media still accept it.
Almost every product crisis that develops touches off references to the Tylenol recall as the "gold standard of crisis PR."
The website of the University of Florida has a rosy view of the recall, saying J&J "conducted an immediate product recall" in 1982 because it followed its "credo" and assumed "responsibility for ensuring public safety first."
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