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COMMUNICATIONS. SHOCKER! PR REQUIRES Communication. Tylenol Case Study . What Happened Sept. 10, 1982 – Johnson & Johnson management learned that its premiere product, Extra-Strength Tylenol, had been used to kill three people.

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tylenol case study
Tylenol Case Study

What Happened

  • Sept. 10, 1982 – Johnson & Johnson management learned that its premiere product, Extra-Strength Tylenol, had been used to kill three people.
  • And over the next few days, three more people died from swallowing Tylenol capsules loaded with cyanide.

The Background

  • At the time, Tylenol held 35% of the $1 billion market and Johnson & Johnson had not been – nor ever had to be – a very high-profile company. CEO James Burke had never appeared on TV or done interviews.

Johnson & Johnson’s Reaction

  • Immediately, Johnson & Johnson open its doors to the media.
  • Even though the company was confident that the poisonings had not occurred at any of its plants, they recalled 93,000 bottles associated with the Chicago murders. And they communicated warnings to doctors, hospitals, distributors and suspended all advertising.
tylenol case study1
Tylenol Case Study

Johnson & Johnson’s Reaction (cont.)

  • However, the FBI was worried about copycat poisonings; and after one occurred in California five days later, Johnson & Johnson did not hesitate and willingly recalled all Extra-Strength Tylenol – 31 million bottles – at a loss of more than $100 million.
  • Johnson & Johnson resumed limited advertising, but with a focused message promising to exchange capsules for tablets and continued aggressive grassroots PR through letters to the trade and statements to the media.
  • Johnson & Johnson went on to offer a $100,000 reward for the killer(s).

The Public’s Reaction

  • Johnson & Johnson commissioned a survey which found 87% of Tylenol users did not blame the company, but 61% still said they were not likely to buy Tylenol capsules in the future.

The Relaunch

  • The company shocked the business and marketing communities by planning an aggressive relaunch of the product in a new triple-safety-sealed, tamper-resistant package.
tylenol case study2
Tylenol Case Study

The Relaunch (cont.)

  • An all-out PR/media blitz was launched to ensure the public understood its commitment, including a bold invitation to 60 Minutes to film and investigate their internal strategy sessions in preparation of the new product launch.

The Result

  • Mike Wallace said that although Wall Street had written off the company, it was now, “hedging its bets because of Johnson & Johnson’s stunning campaign of facts, money, the media, and truth.”
  • By early 1983, Tylenol had recaptured 95% of its prior market share and company morale was higher than ever.
tylenol case study round 2
Tylenol Case Study: Round 2

What Happened

  • Feb. 6, 1986 – A woman in Yonkers, NY died after taking poisoned Tylenol capsules.
  • A hotline, the company set-up after the first incident, received 15,000 phone calls.

Johnson & Johnson’s Reaction

  • CEO Burke held a press conference the very next day – “I’m heartsick. We didn’t believe it could happen again, and nobody else did either.”
  • Production of Tylenol capsules was halted permanently, costing the company more than $150 million.
  • Johnson & Johnson offered to replace all capsules with new Tylenol caplets, a solid form of medication less tamper-prone.

The Public’s Reaction

  • Just two weeks after the tragedy, President Reagan said, “Jim Burke of Johnson & Johnson, you have our deepest appreciation for living up to the highest ideals of corporate responsibility and grace under pressure.”
  • Today, nearly 30 years after the first issue, in virtually every study of corporate reputation, Johnson & Johnson is rated #1.
goals of communication
Goals of Communication
  • To INFORM – Education or increased awareness is often the impetus of public relations work
  • To PERSUADE – To change opinions and behaviors
  • To MOTIVATE – To push people toward action
  • To BUILD MUTAL UNDERSTANDING – Both being understood and truly understanding others
pat jackson said
Pat Jackson Said…
  • Research is never optional.
  • Behavior Change is what matters.
  • PR is about relationships.
  • Face-to-Face communication is the only way to build real relationships.
  • Involvement = Ownership.

PR is just communication but don’t forget:

behavioral public relations model
Behavioral Public Relations Model






Latent Readiness



Triggering Events

Intermediate Behavior

Relationship Building

more contemporary theories of communication
More Contemporary Theories of Communication

Blah, Blah, Blah,…. A quick break into the communication of real PR professionals hard at work….

Stuff PR People Say

side note genius insight from your book
Side Note: GENIUS insight from your book

“Words such as firemen, manpower, housewife, cripple, midget, and Negro may be considered offensive.”

“A person who is thin my indeed be considered highly attractive. But along came 50 Cent and Kanye West and Jay-Z and hip-hop, and pretty soon “phat” became one of the baddest of the bad and the coolest of the cool.”

pr communication the message
PR & Communication – The Message

The main point: Our job as PR professionals is to use words to build messages that move people to action.

Surprise! No one can agree on what exactly constitutes a message!

But what makes a message?

three popular message explanations
Three Popular “Message” Explanations
  • The CONTENT is the message.
    • Intent is most important – neither the medium nor the communicator is as important as the content itself.
  • The MEDIUM is the message.
    • Content is important, but less important (and MUST be influenced) by the medium by which it is being delivered. (Marshall McLuhan)
  • The PERSON is the message.
    • The communicator – and their charisma and ability to persuade – is the most important element.
pr communications receiver s bias
PR & Communications: Receiver’s Bias
  • Stereotypes – An influence on both the creators and the consumers
  • Symbols – Powerful triggers of emotion/recognition
  • Semantics – The words we choose have consequences.
  • Peer Groups – Peer pressure is no joke.
  • Media – They set the agenda; they filter and shape the news and often dictate what is important.
pr communication feedback
PR & Communication: Feedback

Does a press release exist if no one writes about it?

  • Messages can trigger the following effects on receivers:
  • Change Attitudes – Hard to achieve, rarely happens.
  • Crystallize Attitudes – Push someone over the edge; may influence someone to do something they were already thinking about doing.
  • Create Seed of Doubt – Force people to modify or rethink their original opinions.
  • Nothing – Changing attitudes and motivating action takes time.
in conclusion
In conclusion…
  • PR is all about good communication.
  • Learning how and when and to whom to communicate is the primary skill of PR.
  • Communication should be honest, straightforward, and credible.
  • In addition to mastering the techniques of PR, knowledge, experience, hard work and common sense are the basic guiding principles.
how do you know if your message landed
How do you know if your message landed?

If you can figure it out you will be a millionaire.

unsolicited career advice 3
Unsolicited Career Advice #3

Never leave home without your duct tape and some Sharpies.

and now your assignment
And now, your assignment…

Who: You. Have a job. You either work for:

  • Mitt Romney’s campaign manager
  • Costa Concordia’s PR manager

What: Create a coverage report. Select, read and analyze at least five recent articles about your client and/or their competition. Write brief summaries of each article and an overall summary of the coverage as a whole.

When: Due Thursday, Feb. 2

Where: Bring it to class Thursday, Feb. 2 or else

Why: Because this is something you will actually have to do in your first PR job. A lot. The goal is to make it simple for your boss – she doesn’t have to track down the stories – you have found them, and provided clean, concise analysis. You should be focused on what is being said, what the media is focusing on, the media’s different angles (you need to find multiple voices/opinions), and how the competition is responding, so as to help inform overarching strategy. Think hard about how you can make it easier more useful for your boss.