While this statement, or something like it, typically is found in the disclaimer section of investment literature, it also can be applied to crisis communications. It’s a painful lesson that brand kingpin Johnson & Johnson (J&J;) recently learned.
Long considered a trusted member of the brand elite, a company lauded for its handling of the tainted Tylenol pill crisis of 1982, J&J; learned just how fast a company’s reputation can take a harsh body blow.
McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of J&J;, last week executed a recall of some of its most popular over-the-counter medicines. The problem is, the recall–which included Benadryl, Motrin and Rolaids–came some 20 months late, according to a number of sources quoted in the New York Times, including the United States Food and Drug Administration.
While one stumble isn’t likely to erase decades of responsible behavior, J&J; was reminded of the shortness of the collective memory of the public and the news media. The consequences for companies that don’t react in a timely manner when faced with a potential crisis can be severe.
It’s a lesson all of us who work in reputation management and public relations should always remember.