Tylenol Sells Liquid Medicine contaminated with Metal

This is not the first time Johnson & Johnson has faced an issue leading to wide-ranging recalls. After each major recall, they have managed to bounce back gracefully. This incident will likely result in yet another successful feat.

The maker of Tylenol pleaded guilty in a Philadelphia Federal Court to selling liquid medicine contaminated with metal. In addition to metal particles, there were moldy odors and labeling problems discovered.

The Johnson & Johnson subsidiary faces a criminal charge of manufacture and process of adulterated over-the-counter medicines. The company agreed to a $25 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

A spokeswoman for McNeil Consumer Healthcare said the plea agreement “closes a chapter” and that the company has “been implementing enhanced quality and oversight standards across its entire business,” Reuters reports.

The articles also explain that Johnson & Johnson went down $900 million in sales and is no longer the trusted brand they once were. However, this is always the case when a large organization makes a mistake. Now, it is the task of the manufacturer’s Public Relations department to “put the fire out” and regain the public’s trust.

So far, they are on the right track. The manufacturer has pulled the items off the market, admit to their mistake,  and they tell consumers how they will fix the problem….so far so good!

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Microsoft Branding Technique

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Microsoft Lumia is the new name for the Nokia Lumia brand. The announcement of this change comes despite Microsoft agreeing to a 10-year deal to use the Nokia name on mobile products. Apart from this breach of contract, this is a very good branding shift which will increase awareness of the product and brand recognition thus increasing sales. Putting your company’s name on your product is a sure-fire way to increase brand awareness. The company’s social media accounts are also following this re-branding change thus implementing a unified identity concept.

 

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Campaign

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I am sure that by now you have witnessed or viewed a video of someone performing the irresistible ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Thousands of people, including celebrities like Model Giselle Bundchen  and Actor Tom Hanks, have posted videos of themselves getting buckets (large and small) of ice water dumped over their heads and challenging others to do the same to raise money for Lou Gehrig’s disease research and assistance.

Since the ALS Association began tracking the campaign’s progress on July 29, it has raised more than $50 million from 1 million new donors. This campaign has had tremendous public participation and such positive feedback that it has become one of the most viral philanthropic social media campaigns in history.

The reason why this ice bucket challenge has become such a hit with people across the country is that it strays from the typical formula that non-profits use for collecting donations; a simple ask. The ice bucket challenge is daring and fun. It is also something that everyone can do, which has been proven in videos where small children did a more mild version of the challenge. Even for viewers who opt-out of the chilling activity, watching the videos are funny and surprising. Watching also provides an emotional tie almost as if you experiencing it with the person, even though you are viewing from the comforts of your home.

If this campaign does not show the power that lays within word of mouth and social media, then I don’t know what does. It took one person to perform this challenge and share it with friends, then it took off throughout the world and spread like wild fire. I believe that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign has effortlessly set the bar super high for other non-profits to get creative in their efforts to raise awareness and revenue.

 

 

 

Emerging PR Trends

 

Public relations is a well oiled machine which never stops; only evolving to match the starved public that craves the latest news. As PR specialists, we must always keep on our toes and ready to tackle the next crisis. It is also our duty to stay abreast of emerging trends that will enable us to obtain desired outcomes and innovative strategies to get the job done in an above satisfactory manner.

Here is a brief list of PR trends that  I feel have emerged over the years.

1. The never ending cycle of social media

Yes, we are firmly in the age of  technology. What once took hours to find can now be found anywhere on smartphones in 1 minute or less. I predict that one may never work on a campaign where one’s audience is all in one place. In fact, audiences are more fragmented than ever before, splitting their attention between a growing number of channels. To ensure the message is reaching the appropriate people, integrate social media into your PR efforts to bring your message to new audiences. Sharing your content across multiple channels will ensure that people will see it.

2. Utilizing your biggest fans

Who better to help you promote and disseminate information about a product or service than the people actually using the product? Brand ambassadors and “fans” make up the people who talk positively about a product or service online. They advocate for their products, and spread the word however they can. These people are a powerful marketing and selling tool. It would be wise for PR specialists to identify this group and incorporate them into campaigning efforts. As Mack Collier, the founder of #BlogChat and author of “Think Like A Rockstar,” said in his Social Media Tourism Symposium keynote, “You’re marketing to the wrong people…the real money is in connecting with your biggest fans. Your fans will go out and acquire new customers for you.”

3. Long Term Planning

There will be many times when as PR specialists we must simply, “put out the fire.” Meaning, that we must work quick on our feet to resolve a major issue immediately. In a situation such as this, it is understandable to be in a “short-term” state of mind. However, it is more beneficial to plan ahead.  In order to make the most impact, we must be more strategic and think long term. We must have a plan for any crisis that may occur…. BEFORE IT EVEN HAPPENS. Doing so may save you a bit of stress.

4. Action speaks louder than words

It is no longer good enough to simply promote. PR specialists must promote in a way that enables targeted audiences to take action. Communication with the public should never be as though posting a note on a cork board. It should be a conversation open for feedback, a dialogue. Talking at people will get you blocked and judged. However, talking to people will result in proceeding action.

5. Renaissance PR Specialists

Public relations is no longer centered around writing press releases and building relationships. PR now involves, interactive media production, video production, event planning, interviewing, building relationships, writing, photography, social media, blogging, etc… with an emphasis on etc. because PR specialists never know what their next job will involve. In order to keep up with this ever evolving industry, we must be multi-talented individuals who are prepared for whatever is need to get the job done.

If you are a  fellow aspiring public relations specialist, or if you already have years of PR experience under your belt, don’t hesitate to comment adding more PR trends you feel are on the rise. Thank you!

 

US Airways Goes from family-friendly to X-Rated

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Due to the picture’s graphic nature, I will not provide the image. However, you may visit the following URL to view it yourself. http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/us-airways-tweets-out-photo-of-model-airplane-in-womans-1563098531

US Airways accidentally posted a pornographic image, featuring a naked woman and a toy plane, on its Twitter account on Monday. The airline has more than 428,000 followers on Twitter, all of which were exposed to the disturbing photograph.

Supposedly, the image had been tweeted to US Airways by another person. While a member of the company’s social media team attempted to flag this photo as inappropriate, they seemed to have  attached it to a Twitter reply sent to a different customer, who had been complaining about a flight delay.

The tweet containing the photo was removed approximately 1 hour after the tweet was sent (YIKES!). As you can image, this incident was a catalyst for the swell in US Airways’ followers and fell victim to social media scrutiny.  US Airways then fired back by tweeting a message stating, “We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating.” The airline has confirmed to the Washington Post that it will not fire the member of its social media team responsible for the issue simply because it was an accident. 

From a PR stand point, it was very important for the company to take responsibility for what occurred and apologize. US Airways did a satisfactory job in doing just that. They also get an A+ for stating that the issue will be investigated further to determine whether or not this was in fact an accident . The fact that this horrific photo was left out in the public for 60 minutes after it’s dissemination makes people question whether or not it was truly an accident. Also, I would recommend better training for the Social Media team. Let’s face it, something went wrong in that office Monday afternoon. US Airways needs to better train their employees so that this mistake does not happen again. I also recommend that the organization be as transparent and available to the media & public as possible. In a situation like this it always helps to communicate and work with the media to help narrate the story.  Some people are confused as to why US Airways has not fired the person responsible. Well, let’s think about it for a moment. US Airways is one of the less popular airlines. US Airways has the least amount of customer loyalty compared to American Airlines or Delta. The photo leak seems to have been an honest mistake. And that old thought that even bad publicity is good publicity remains valid in some cases. If this incident is resulting in free advertisement, a swell in social media engagement, and have people talking about your brand, the good seems to outweigh the bad so why fire the poor social media guy?

Although this was a dramatic hit for US Airways, the news cycle will go on. I predict that by Sunday, this story will be dead and just a chuckle at the water cooler on Monday. The news cycle is a never ending cyclone that does not stop at one story, by Sunday we will be discussing the next scandal!

FOX 31 Gets X-Rated

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In an attempt to broadcast a photo from the Seattle crash of a news helicopter this past Tuesday, Fox 31 accidentally showed a picture that left the morning team in shock.

KDVRThad a camera pointed to a computer screen during its “Good Day” morning program showing damage from the helicopter crash in Seattle. Then the screen began showing other pictures from Twitter including Edward Scissor-hands, an omelette , and then a penis exposed through a man’s zipper.

Two anchors on set immediately covered their mouths in horror as their colleagues continued on.

Moments after the incident News Director, Ed Kosowski, issued an apology to the Denver Post:

“Fox 31 Denver accidentally broadcast an offensive photo while scrolling live through a Twitter feed of pictures from the crash scene,” the statement said. “The photo was mistakenly broadcast by our control room. It did not come from the tablet many viewers saw being used by one of our anchors. We apologize for the inadvertent broadcast of the image and we are taking immediate steps to prevent such an accident from happening again.”
In the realm of technology, mistakes are bound to happen. But, when they do happen, PR practitioners need to be ready to respond in a timely manner. Instead of Fox 31 sitting around waiting for the issue to die down, an appropriate apology was issued by the news director using the 3 fundamental components of a public apology ( I’m sorry statement, what happened, and how they plan on fixing the problem).

Due to the news show responding in a timely manner, apologizing, and taking steps to correct the issue, this problem died down before festering in the public. Kudos to Fox 31’s Public Relations team on a job well done.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong in the Hot Seat

Tim Armstrong (CEO of AOL)

Tim Armstrong (CEO of AOL)

Earlier this month Tim  Armstrong, AOL CEO, changed the company’s 401(k) plan so employees would get a lump sum at the end of the year  instead of regular contributions in each paycheck. The switch caused an uproar from employees because they would not get money  if they left the company before year-end, and would potentially miss  stock gains during the year.

Armstrong explained that AOL adopted this change because of a $7.1 million increase in health-care costs required to make the company comply with Obama care. During an interview, in an attempt to explain the company’s shift,  Armstrong blamed the 401(k) change partly on a spike in health-care costs related to the difficult birth of two babies covered by the company’s policies. He stated that these “distressed babies” cost AOL $1 million each.

Realizing the effect his words had on the two mothers and other AOL employees, Armstrong later responded by reinstating the previous 401 (K) plan and indirectly apologizing to the two moms.

From a PR stand point, Armstrong made several mistakes in this situation that could have made this shift of 401 (k) program smoother.

First, let us address the CEO’s communication and employee relations. In an attempt to explain  why the 401(k) was being altered, during an interview, Armstrong singled out two employees and ultimately blamed the shift on their high risk pregnancies. By doing this, he casts his employees as mere liabilities to the company.  Just to be clear, ground employees are a company’s best asset and need to be treated as such.  It is apparent that Armstrong has forgotten the direct connection between employee satisfaction and customer delight. In order to have happy customers, you must have happy employees. Consumers do not walk away from a business saying “The CEO is a nice man/woman.” In reality, customers walk away from a business with the memory of how they were treated by the cashier, clerk, server, etc. Instead of playing the blame game, Armstrong should have explained the big picture of why 401 (k) plans were being changed. With this said, AOL employees should have received a direct apology from him .

Second, the CEO’s less than timely reaction . In our society of innovative technology, everything is public. Because studies show that on a 7:1 ratio people prefer to hear/ see bad news more than good news, media channels jump on stories like this with little mercy on the subject (Center, Jackson, Smith & Stansberry). I will give credit where credit is due. Armstrong did apologize, and reinstated the 401 (k) plan. However, he only did this after remaining quiet for a few days, and realizing that this problem was not going away on its own. Instead of remaining quiet and allowing the media to tell his story, Armstrong should have made a public announcement stating exactly what happened. He also should have directly apologized to the two mothers he mentioned in the interview and all of the AOL employees. This would have helped regain employee loyalty as well as trust. By attempting to wait for things to cool off, and then taking action once he saw no other way out,  his actions did not seem genuine.

If I were to advise Tim Armstrong on anything I would suggest three things.

1.Brush up on communication skills.

This entire incident did not happen because Armstrong is a jerk. I believe it happened because he did not know how to effectively communicate his thoughts. As my PR management professor says, “CEOs only speak one language, money.” CEOs do not understand how to effectively communicate with people, let alone their customers and employees. I would recommend that Armstrong get coaching on how to effectively communicate especially in the public.

2. Deal with issues head on.

Nothing resolves itself. He must participate and actively communicate with the public about what happened, and what he is doing to make sure it does not happen again. However, he probably does not understand this need because, again, he lacks essential communication skills.

3.  Learn how to apologize.

No good apology is without three very important components, which Armstrong’s apology conveniently lacked,  including the “I’m sorry statement,” what you did wrong, and how you are going to fix it.

References:

Center, A., Jackson, P., Smith, S., & Stansberry, F. Public relations practices. (7th ed., p. 162).

Bartash, J. (2014, February 9). Aol chief offers mea culpa after 401(k) faux pas. Retrieved from http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2014/02/09/aol-ceo-retreats-on-401k-switch-after-uproar/