Effective Communications Case Study - Tylenol

Topics: Public relations, Chicago Tylenol murders, Public Pages: 5 (1768 words) Published: February 28, 2007
Effective Communication Case Study - Tylenol
In the fall of 1982, after taking Extra-Strength Tylenol laced with cyanide, seven people were pronounced dead. Mary Kellerman 12 years old from Elk Grove, Illinois, Adam Janus 27 years old from Arlington Heights, Illinois, Adam's brother Stanley, 25, and his wife Theresa, 19, Mary Reiner, 27, from Winfield, Paula Prince, 35, found dead in her Chicago apartment, and Mary McFarland, 31, from Elmhurst, Illinois were all killed after taking the cyanide-laced Tylenol. The causes of these deaths were not known right away, and it was only after two off-duty fireman, Philip Cappitelli and Richard Keyworth, were exchanging information did they realize that Tylenol was a mentioned in two of the reports (Tift, 1982). The Tylenol bottles were gathered up and tested after the two firemen told their superiors about their assumptions. Testing revealed that the Tylenol in question contained 65 milligrams of cyanide, the amount needed to kill a person is five to seven micrograms. Once this was known, the country was warned about the danger of taking Tylenol, and police drove through Chicago announcing the warning over loudspeakers. All three major television networks ran stories on the dangers of Tylenol and the connections to the seven deaths. The Food and Drug Administration even warned the country not to take Tylenol (Kowalski, 1999). With this type of problem on Johnson & Johnson's hands, the company needed to act quickly. The company needed to effectively address both internal and external publics. The company needed to use effective public relations tools and techniques to keep the company's publics informed about what steps they were taking and what the company had found. Since this had occurred in 1982, there could be different tools and techniques used today to help supply a steady stream of information to the different publics, and make sure that an effective public relations campaign was conducted. Communication Effectiveness

Johnson & Johnson broke up their public relations campaign into two phases. The first phase of the public relations campaign was to handle the crisis, and the second phase was the comeback of Johnson & Johnson and Tylenol. The first phase began after it was discovered that Extra-Strength Tylenol caused the deaths in Chicago. Johnson & Johnson put consumer safety first in the public relations campaign that was devised. The company immediately went to the media to alert consumers not to take any Tylenol product, until the extent of the tampering was known. The next step was an announced nationwide recall of all Tylenol products. Johnson & Johnson also sent warnings to health professionals about the tampering issue. The company quickly began public relations with the FBI, the Chicago Police, and the Food and Drug Administration. Shortly after the deaths took place, Johnson & Johnson announced a $100,000 reward for the person tampering with the Tylenol bottles. The final step of the first phase came when Johnson & Johnson offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules that had already been purchased with Tylenol tablets (Kaplan, 1998). Implementing the first phase cost Johnson & Johnson millions of dollars in lost sales and product. The other effect it had was to prove to Johnson & Johnson's publics that they were more concerned with consumer safety then company profit. The public relations actions taken immediately after the deaths and the implication of Extra-Strength Tylenol, portrayed to the public that Johnson & Johnson was committed to solving the crime committed and protecting the public. The public relations actions showed the company as candid, contrite, and compassionate. The company was very successful in having effective communication with the public. Publics Involved

The cyanide laced Tylenol impacted many different publics for Johnson & Johnson. There were both internal and external publics impacted by the tainting of the Tylenol product. Externally,...

References: Kaplan, T., (1998). The Tylenol crisis: how effective public relations saved Johnson & Johnson. Retrieved January 31, 2007, from Tactical Crisis Management Web site: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring01/Hayes/
Kowalski, W., (1999). The Tylenol murders. Retrieved January 31, 2007, from The Tylenol Murders Web site: http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/w/x/wxk116/tylenol/
Tift, S., (1982, October 11). Poison madness in the Midwest. Time, Retrieved January 31, 2007, from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,922991-1,00.html
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