Fighting in public escalates a crisis

Check out these different views on the same story involving a US law suit between healthcare company Johnson & Johnson and the Red Cross charity:

As the says about the case:

There are times when even the most fertile imagination would have trouble concocting fiction stranger than business reality.

Both and the  are also using their websites to present their perspective on the law suit.

J&J is famous in PR terms for the handling of its Tylenol crisis (albeit a ““) and its outlining its corporate values.  Similarly, the Red Cross claims to be founded on .  Neither seems to be living up to their values here.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs here, both organisations will need medical attention for their reputations as a result of the public spat. 

What this example shows more than anything is the value of understanding an organisation’s relationships – especially when they have historical depth. 

This was evident in the from 2001 which led to the end of a 95-year relationship.  Indeed, head of the car company, William J Ford, is the great-grandson of Henry Ford and, on his mother’s side, Harvey S. Firestone – who founded the two companies and were friends.  [The Firestone company was sold to Bridgestone in 1988]

Instead of drawing on this family heritage to resolve the situation to the benefit of affected customers, the situation escalated harming both companies and showing little regard for those who had been involved in accidents or lost relatives.

Despite citing the J&J Tylenol case as his inspiration for handling the crisis, Ford chief executive, Jac Nasser soon left the company.  The crisis has a legacy in PR textbooks – as how not to do things.

Will that be the fate of the current J&J-Red Cross fight?  Surely, it would be better to work out a solution where each could benefit from the brand strengths of the other, instead of the escalating public criticism of both.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

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