divisnship aons withChapter 4 Public Opinion 75rust amand inetyPick of the LiteratureannThe New York Times, nytimes.com, and The Wall StreetJournal, wsj.comPublic relations can be practiced only by understandingitatinpublic opinion, and two of the most prominent daily forumsBoth papers, through their opinion pages and in-depthin which to study it are The New York Times and The Wallstories, express the attitudes of leaders in politics, business,Street Journal or, as is increasingly the case, their onlinescience, 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, thesetions. Occasionally, the Times and the Journal supplementtwo most venerable news organizations reveal the diversetheir usual coverage with public opinion polls to gauge at-views of pundits, politicians, and plain people. The Timestitudes and beliefs on particularly hot issues. Sure, the newsis arguably the primary source of printed news in the world.is often infuriating, but it’s also a joy to know more aboutThe Journal, likewise, is the primary printed source of thewhat’s going on than virtually anyone else.world’s business and investment news – an area of increasThe Times and the Journal are clearly the most importantingly dominant importance.reference works any public relations professional can read(even including this book!).Case StudyThe Tylenol MurdersArguably, the two most important cases in the history of the prac-tice of public relations occurred within four years of each other toCaught by Surprisethe same product and company.Johnson & Johnson’s management was caught totally by surpriseFor close to 100 years, Johnson & Johnson Company of Newwhen the news hit. The company recognized that it needed theBrunswick, New Jersey, was the epitome of a well-managed, highlymedia to get out as much information to the public as quicklyprofitable, and tight-lipped consumer products manufacturer.as possible to prevent a panic. Therefore, almost immediately,Johnson & Johnson made a key decision: to open its doors tothe media.Round IOn the second day of the crisis, Johnson & Johnson discov-That image changed on the morning of September 30, 1982,ered that an earlier statement that no cyanide was used on itspremises was wrong. The company didn’t hesitate. Its publicwhen Johnson & Johnson faced as devastating a public relationsrelations department quickly announced that the earlier informa-problem as had confronted any company in history.ion had been false. Even though the reversal embarrassed theThat morning, Johnson & Johnson’s management learnedcompany briefly, Johnson & Johnson’s openness was hailed andthat its premier product, extra-strength Tylenol, had been used asmade 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 thatanother three people died from swallowing Tylenol capsulesthe poisonings had not occurred at any of its plants. Nonetheless,loaded with cyanide. Although all the cyanide deaths occurred inJohnson & Johnson recalled an entire lot of 93,000 bottles ofChicago, reports from other parts of the country also implicatedextra-strength Tylenol associated with the reported Chicago mur-extra-strength Tylenol capsules in illnesses of various sorts. Theseders. In the process, it telegrammed warnings to doctors, hospilatter reports were later proved to be unfounded, but Johnson &tals, and distributors and suspended all Tylenol advertising.Johnson and its Tylenol-producing subsidiary, McNeil ConsumerBut what about all those millions of dollars worth of TylenProducts 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 everThe company was convinced such a massive recall wasnexperienced.warranted by the facts. It was convinced that the tampering haTylenol had been an astoundingly profitable product fortaken place during the product’s Chicago distribution and notJohnson & Johnson. At the time of the Tylenol murders, the prod-the manufacturing process. Further, the FBI was worried thatuct held 35% of the $1 billion analgesic market. Throughout theprecipitous recall would encourage copycat poisoning attemptyears, Johnson & Johnson had not been-and hadn’t needed toNonetheless, five days later, when a copycat strychnine poisbe-a particularly high-profile company. Its chairperson, James E.ing occurred in California, Johnson & Johnson did recall all extBurke, with the company for almost 30 years, had never appearedstrength Tylenol capsules-31 million bottles-at a cost of mon television and had rarely participated in print interviews.than $100 million.
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