Lessons from an 80s Crisis Apply to COVID-19 Vaccinations

As Johnson & Johnson enters their Phase 3 trial, it’s only a short matter of time for it to be approved for use to help the COVID-19 crisis. It’s time for them to rely on the lessons learned from their merited public relations and marketing response to the 1980s crisis of cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules that caused the death of seven individuals.

Johnson & Johnson’s commitment was based on their founder’s credo, “the first responsibility is to the customer,” helping them survive the crisis without sacrificing credibility. Also, another key element was their acknowledgment of the importance of recognizing the responsibility to maintain positive public relationships.

You may be thinking, the 80s Tylenol crisis was a brand under fire, how does that even correlate to COVID-19 vaccinations? It’s more about the lessons learned that can be applied to build credibility with the public to agree to receive the COVID vaccine.

Here are some of the crisis lessons that should be applied to help build trust in the COVID vaccine:

» Leverage the company’s credible legacy

Johnson & Johnson is known for a long history of success and service in the field of beneficial healthcare products.

» Focus on the safety of the vaccine

Openly share all that has gone into developing the vaccine, the science, the approval process, and the data/metrics from the vaccine trials. In the 80s, Johnson & Johnson focused on their work to create a tamper resistant packaging.

» Ensure a third party is sharing messages

For example, this could be Dr. Fauci, a representative from the CDC, or another party that connects with your audience to provide authenticity. In the 80s, the FDA shared information that quelled consumer panic.

» Be forthcoming with information

As they distribute the vaccine more frequently, directly address new findings and issues that may arise. In the 80s, Johnson & Johnson excelled in sharing the good and bad information as soon as they knew about it.

There are many different factors that come into play that weren’t around in the 80s, like social media. But as you can see, Johnson & Johnson is a classic example of how using effective public relations strategy can withstand time and help provide valuable lessons for today’s public relations issues.

Thank you for reading our Insight on lessons from an 80s crisis that apply to COVID-19 vaccinations. For more insights on how to handle communications during a crisis please read “Communications Checklist During a Crisis”, and “Who Your Spokesperson Should Be in  a Crisis Situation.”

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