Johnson took that helped them navigate thisdivis
Chapter 4 Public Opinion 75
Pick of the Literature
The New York Times, nytimes.com, and The Wall Street
Public relations can be practiced only by understanding
public opinion, and two of the most prominent daily forums
Both papers, through their opinion pages and in-depth
in which to study it are The New York Times and The Wall
stories, express the attitudes of leaders in politics, business,
Street Journal or, as is increasingly the case, their online
science, education, journalism, and the arts, on topics rang-
vehicles, nytimes.com and wsj.com.
ing from abortion rights to genetic engineering to race rela-
Despite the 21st-century problems of newspapers, these
tions. Occasionally, the Times and the Journal supplement
two most venerable news organizations reveal the diverse
their usual coverage with public opinion polls to gauge at-
views of pundits, politicians, and plain people. The Times
titudes and beliefs on particularly hot issues. Sure, the news
is arguably the primary source of printed news in the world.
is often infuriating, but it’s also a joy to know more about
The Journal, likewise, is the primary printed source of the
what’s going on than virtually anyone else.
world’s business and investment news – an area of increas
The Times and the Journal are clearly the most important
ingly dominant importance.
reference works any public relations professional can read
(even including this book!).
The Tylenol Murders
Arguably, the two most important cases in the history of the prac-
tice of public relations occurred within four years of each other to
Caught by Surprise
the same product and company.
Johnson amp; Johnson’s management was caught totally by surprise
For close to 100 years, Johnson amp; Johnson Company of New
when the news hit. The company recognized that it needed the
Brunswick, New Jersey, was the epitome of a well-managed, highly
media to get out as much information to the public as quickly
profitable, and tight-lipped consumer products manufacturer.
as possible to prevent a panic. Therefore, almost immediately,
Johnson amp; Johnson made a key decision: to open its doors to
On the second day of the crisis, Johnson amp; Johnson discov-
That image changed on the morning of September 30, 1982,
ered that an earlier statement that no cyanide was used on its
premises was wrong. The company didn’t hesitate. Its public
when Johnson amp; Johnson faced as devastating a public relations
relations department quickly announced that the earlier informa-
problem as had confronted any company in history.
ion had been false. Even though the reversal embarrassed the
That morning, Johnson amp; Johnson’s management learned
company briefly, Johnson amp; Johnson’s openness was hailed and
that its premier product, extra-strength Tylenol, had been used as
made up for any damage to its credibility.
a murder weapon to kill three people. In the days that followed,
Early on in the crisis, the company was largely convinced that
another three people died from swallowing Tylenol capsules
the poisonings had not occurred at any of its plants. Nonetheless,
loaded with cyanide. Although all the cyanide deaths occurred in
Johnson amp; Johnson recalled an entire lot of 93,000 bottles of
Chicago, reports from other parts of the country also implicated
extra-strength Tylenol associated with the reported Chicago mur-
extra-strength Tylenol capsules in illnesses of various sorts. These
ders. In the process, it telegrammed warnings to doctors, hospi
latter reports were later proved to be unfounded, but Johnson amp;
tals, and distributors and suspended all Tylenol advertising.
Johnson and its Tylenol-producing subsidiary, McNeil Consumer
But what about all those millions of dollars worth of Tylen
Products Company, found themselves at the center of a pub-
capsules on the nation’s shelves?
lic relations trauma the likes of which few companies had ever
The company was convinced such a massive recall wasn
warranted by the facts. It was convinced that the tampering ha
Tylenol had been an astoundingly profitable product for
taken place during the product’s Chicago distribution and not
Johnson amp; Johnson. At the time of the Tylenol murders, the prod-
the manufacturing process. Further, the FBI was worried that
uct held 35% of the $1 billion analgesic market. Throughout the
precipitous recall would encourage copycat poisoning attempt
years, Johnson amp; Johnson had not been-and hadn’t needed to
Nonetheless, five days later, when a copycat strychnine pois
be-a particularly high-profile company. Its chairperson, James E.
ing occurred in California, Johnson amp; Johnson did recall all ext
Burke, with the company for almost 30 years, had never appeared
strength Tylenol capsules-31 million bottles-at a cost of m
on television and had rarely participated in print interviews.
than $100 million.Marketing
Johnson took that helped them navigate thisdivis