Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Remember the Tylenol Scare?

From left to right: O'Dwyer Chief Editor
Kevin mcCauley;Jack O'Dwyer, Publisher;
Greg Hazely, writer and West Coast Bureau
Chief George McQuade pays the NY office
a visit recently.

Guest Editorial by Jack O’Dwyer

The Much-Praised Tylenol Story
Has a Lot of Holes In It

Fortune magazine is the latest victim of the myth,
failing to focus on the real culprit–the capsule.


Fortune magazine, failing to carefully examine the background of the Tylenol recall of 1982 after seven murders via Tylenols, has called Tylenol “the gold standard in crisis control.”

Johnson & Johnson CEO James Burke, fearing loss of market share, had rushed back into the market less than two months after the murders with “tamper-resistant” packaging.

Neither J&J nor any company in the industry dared to say “tamper-proof.”

How would you like to have a gas stove or gas tank in your car that were “leak resistant” or a brakes in the car that worked “almost 100% of the time?”

Would you eat canned food labeled “botulism-resistant?”

Burke himself chaired the committee on “tamper-resistant” packaging that rushed this knowingly flawed system back to market on Nov. 11, 1982.

The seals on a poisoned bottle of Tylenols that killed Diane Elsroth, 23, of Peeksville, N.Y., Feb. 7, 1986 appeared not to have been broken.

But the FBI, using “sophisticated” tests, found on Feb. 27 that the seals had been broken.

This was thought to exonerate J&J of any blame. But if it took the FBI three weeks to learn this, what chance did the average consumer have of noticing tampering on a Tylenol bottle or any other bottle?

Also, a murderer could break the seals and offer a spiked Tylenol or other capsule to an unknowing victim who might be a “friend” or relative.

Modern PR breaks down into two categories: J&J/Tylenol and the rest of it. One need only study what happened in this incident to know plenty about how PR works and how media work (or don’t).

For openers, J&J should not have been selling anything in easily opened and doctored capsules.

Burke’s career at J&J was heavily identified with the success of highly-profitable Tylenol.

The capsules were popular because people felt they were easier to swallow and worked faster than tablets. Tylenol tablets, much smaller, were also easy to swallow and worked just as fast.

Burke feared J&J would stop using capsules but others wouldn’t, causing a drop in Tylenol’s market share.

There was no “immediate” recall as described in the Effective PR textbook or “instant” recall as Russell Crowe said in “The Insider” movie.

J&J at first confined the recall to two small lots after two Tylenol deaths took place on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 1982. Both J&J and the FDA told people on Thursday not to take any more Tylenol capsules until an investigation was made.

The actual recall (of the few, if any, Tylenol products left on shelves), was made Oct. 6, seven days after Burke learned of the initial murders. Burke had pushed back any decision on what to do until Monday, Oct. 4, when a large staff meeting was scheduled.

Mary Kellerman, 12, and Adam Janus, 27, had died of poisoned Tylenols on the morning of Sept. 29.

Who has ever seen a picture of Kellerman or Janus or his brother Stanley, 25, or Stanley’s wife, Theresa, 19, or any of the other four victims? We haven’t and we’ve been collecting material on this story for 25 years.

When J&J finally agreed to a settlement in May of 1991, none of their names were even mentioned in a Chicago Tribune story.

As far as we can tell, there has been nothing but silence from these families for 25 years.

We never saw a picture of Elsroth, either. Both Newsweek and Time ran full-page stories on the second Tylenol poisoning but no pictures of Elsroth. Newsweek’s March 3, 1986 issue had a large picture of Burke.

Media attention has been focused on possible harm to Tylenol’s market share while minimum ink has been given to the victims. They have almost been “de-humanized.”

A “man” in Oroville, Calif., almost died of a Tylenol poisoning on Oct. 5, 1982, but his name has never been revealed.

J&J did not win a PRSA Silver Anvil in 1983 for its Tylenol recall despite claims to this effect.

J&J entered the recall in the “Emergency PR” category and lost to Hygrade Food Products which was praised for its creativity in handling alleged contamination of hot dogs.

J&J had refused to give the Anvil judges a key ingredient, the PR budget. J&J had also not called a press conference to answer questions in public (it had lots of enemies because of what the Wall Street Journal called its “knuckle-buster lawsuits” vs. competitors).

Only the judges had the power to award Anvils. The Anvil committee then decided, on its own, to give J&J something but it should have been called a “Special Award.”

While J&J ducked a public grilling on the murders in late September and early October, it had three open “teleconferences” in November when it was unveiling its “tamper-resistant” packaging.

J&J (made up of more than 160 different companies) later donated millions in ads and grants to PRSA. Burke, with J&J nearly 30 years, had “never” appeared on TV and “rarely” in print, according to The Practice of PR by Fraser Seitel..

J&J “would not give us the time of day” up until Tylenol, ABC-TV business reporter Karen Ryan said in 1983. Camera crews would show up at J&J h.q. only to be told the meeting was cancelled, she said.

Omnicom’s John Wren (Ad Age’s 2007 “Man of the Year”), has ducked the New York press for the fifth straight year by holding a brief annual meeting in Denver...the Overseas Press Club battles for press rights in dictatorships such as Cuba, Eritrea and Uzbekistan (5/23 NL) but it should also turn its attention to authoritarian giants in the U.S. like Omnicom that have shunned the press for many years and gotten away with it.

The journalist’s life has “never been harder,” Bill Moyers told a media group 5/15/05. Institutions fight back fiercely when subjected to “critical scrutiny,” he said...OPC’s membership fell from 3,326 in 1966 to 600 at present as foreign bureaus closed and media hired nationals...the five big ad agencies, J&J, PRSA and numerous other institutions have super-tight policies in dealing with the press that approach the policies of undemocratic foreign dictatorships...reporters are deemed to be “enemies” because they don’t share the enthusiasm an organization has for itself. They’re not supposed to. As Abraham Lincoln said in1837 (as quoted in the 5/28 New Yorker), the only acceptable form of public discourse is “reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason.” He said that while “passion has helped us, it can do so no more. It will in the future be our enemy”...Mary Beth West, Maryville, Tenn., counselor, spent an hour May 24 on a teleconference pleading with PRSA chapter reps to create advocacy chairs and to think up issues for PRSA’s advocacy program. She told them to stick to generalities when discussing a crisis and avoid naming companies or individuals (who might be PRSA members). Best is to check with national before saying anything, she said...we can suggest a couple of issues. One is support the right of the press to cover institutions and particularly PRSA. It should be unethical to duck a reporter’s call even if “no comment” is all that can be said. Organizations can be urged to accept the dispassionate and even critical viewpoint that reporters provide and to practice “cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason” in dealing with them. No. 2 is that PR pros should work or at least be available 24/7, the hours that media work.

MAYO PR - "We don't guarantee media, we just get it!"

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Media Friendly, I don't Think So...


John Wren, CEO of Omnicom
Photo by: Michael J.N. Bowles

OMC’s Wren Ducks Reporter at
Annual Meeting in Denver

John Wren, CEO of Omnicom,
rebuffed a reporter
who tried to ask questions
at the annual meeting
May 22 in Denver.

Thurs., May 24


By Jack O'Dwyer

An attempt by a local reporter to question Omnicom CEO John Wren at the annual meeting in Denver May 24 was rebuffed by OMC executives.

Wren’s habit in recent years has been to avoid questions from reporters at the annual meeting.

He and the board stopped holding the meeting in New York in 2002. Reporters from this website, the Wall Street Journal and Advertising Age would attend the meeting and ask questions.

Attempts by this website to hire reporters who would question Wren in such cities as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Dallas have been mostly unsuccessful.

OMC’s PR units, including Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum and Porter Novelli, billed about $1.2 billion in 2006, making OMC the largest owner of PR.

OMC does not have its own full time PR person but uses Patricia Sloan of its DDB unit when needed. She was formerly New York editor of Ad Age.

A reporter hired by this website was able to ask two questions of Wren in Dallas in 2005 before he was cut off by an OMC staffer who told him to stop using a camera.

The reporter replied it was not a camera but a digital recorder. A motion to adjourn the meeting was made during this interchange and the reporter was not allowed to ask any more questions.

A total of 15 questions had been given to the reporter who held the proxy of the O’Dwyer Co. and had the right to question Wren.

Wren was paid $13.2 million in 2006 and owns 486,086 shares worth $50 million. Options on 1.5 million shares at $79.50 became exercisable on April 4, giving him a potential immediate profit of about $30 million since OMC is currently trading at $102.

This website supplied the O’Dwyer proxy to reporter Beth Potter of the Denver Business Journal with the suggested question to Wren of: “How do you justify your compensation when OMC is still below its high of $107 on Dec. 17, 1999?”

Potter said that when she got to the room at The Integer Group-Denver, an OMC agency, someone told her the public part of the meeting was over and no questions could be allowed since the board had to go into a meeting.

An e-mail and phone messages were left with the business desk of the Denver Post about the OMC meeting but no responses were received.

Integer’s website describes Integer as “America’s fourth largest promotional agency.” It has 800 employees and other offices in Des Moines, Dallas, Cleveland and New York. Jeremy Pagden is CEO of The Integer Group-Corporate.

Federal Judge John Keenan earlier this month “certified” a class action lawsuit filed against OMC related to its dot-com investment losses.

The plaintiffs cite investment losses during the period from Feb. 20, 2001 to June 11, 2002. OMC is accused of failing to deduct about $89 million from its earnings in the first half of 2001 caused by declines in the value of its dot-com investments. Earnings reported for that half were $246M.

OMC allegedly off-loaded the shares for its dot-com companies to sham entities to avoid reporting the loss. The company has denied the charges.

A WSJ story June 12, 2002 resulted in the stock falling from the $70's to the $30's. It recovered over the next year.

Wren is known for keeping press contact to a minimum. He has granted four interviews in the past five years and discussion of financial topics was absent from each one.

Analysts say the $3.1 billion debt of OMC is among factors holding down the stock.

OMC has been buying back its own stock in order to maintain its price. It has reduced the float from 187 million to 167 million shares and Lehman Brothers is predicting it will spend $826M in 2007 and $874M in 2008 for share buybacks. It has already spent $451M on buybacks in the first quarter of 2007.

The New York Post ran a column by Christopher Byron Aug. 14, 2006 headlined “Buyback Blarney” which had the subhead: “Omnicom is pouring billions into goosing its stock.” Byron said buyback programs can backfire. The price of the stock may go up but with fewer shares out, the overall value of the company remains the same, he said.

OMC borrowed nearly $1 billion in 2006 to help with the purchases.

New York Post real estate columnist Lois Weiss on May 8 said OMC has shown an interest in 650,000 sq. ft. of office space at 100 Church st. (downtown) “that have been languishing on the market.” OMC has been “making the vacancy rounds with its long-time brokers Howard Wendy and Lee Feld of WF Realty,” said Weiss. WF Realty wouldn’t comment on possible tenants.

MAYO PR - "We don't guarantee media, we just get it!"

Sunday, May 20, 2007

By Jerry Brown, APR

The following is a commentary from
Guest Columnist
Jerry Brown

Just like music, interviews have a rhythm. Control your rhythm and you’ll find it easier to control your answers. Let a reporter disrupt your rhythm and you’ll probably get into trouble.

All of us have a rhythm to our speech and the way we answer questions. And it’s different for each of us. Reporters may follow your rhythm or try to disrupt it during an interview depending on what they believe will be most useful to them.

During a hostile interview, for example, a reporter may hammer you with a rapid succession of questions, interrupt you and try to rush you by upping the tempo. Or the reporter may be friendly, encouraging you to speak as long as you like.

Is one better than the other? Not necessarily. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by hostile reporters who try to rush and interrupt you. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the ones who are more friendly.

Reporters use a variety of techniques to change the rhythm of an interview. Three of the most common are pausing, rushing and interrupting.

· Pausing: A lot of media trainers ignore this tactic. I’m not sure why. Reporters who use it generally are masters at getting people to say things they shouldn’t. It works like this. The reporter asks a question and you answer. Instead of following with another question, the reporter pauses. Many people are uncomfortable with the silence. So, they start talking again – saying things they shouldn’t. Good reporters know this can be extremely fertile ground for them. It’s simple to avoid this trap. Answer the question. Stick to your message. Then wait for the next question, even if the reporter pauses.

· Rushing: Flip side of the pause and more common. Reporter asks another question as soon as you’ve finished your answer – or even a little before you’ve finished your answer. Don’t let the reporter rush you. Take the time to finish your answer and deliver your message. Then, give yourself breathing and thinking space between answers. If the reporter’s trying to rush you, pause before you begin each answer to slow the pace. Besides maintaining your rhythm, one of your goals is to get the reporter to listen to what you’re saying. Reporters who try to rush you often aren’t listening.

· Interrupting: An exaggerated form of rushing. The reporter repeatedly interrupts your answers to ask another question. The reporter may be trying to get you off balance so you won’t think about your answers. But something to watch for: The reporter may interrupt because your answer isn’t useful for the story. Time’s extremely important to most reporters. If a reporter’s interrupting to badger you, take time to complete your answer and ask the reporter to let you finish before you accept another question. But if you know the reporter’s interrupting because what you’re saying isn’t useful, move on.

MAYO PR - "We don't guarantee media, we just get it!"

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Imus Gives CBS Feedback For Comeback

Imus Makes Comeback

May 3, 2007

Ousted radio jock Don Imus has a good shot in prevailing in a lawsuit against CBS, which fired him in the aftermath of remarks directed at the Rutgers University women's basketball team, according to media reports.

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's legal correspondent, said Imus' contract with CBS requires him to be "controversial."

CNN obtained a copy of the contract that states: "Company (CBS Radio) acknowledges that Artist's (Imus') services to be rendered hereunder are of a unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial and personal character."

In Toobin's view, CBS must show that Imus' "nappy-headed hos" crack is "outside the realm of what the contract allowed."

Fortune reports a legal showdown "could turn on how language in his contract that encouraged the radio host to be irreverent and engage in character attacks is interpreted," wrote Tim Arango.

Imus' five-year $40M contract also stipulates that he must receive a warning before being fired. It is the "dog has one-bite" clause, according to the magazine.

Fortune notes it is unclear whether Imus received a warning after once referring to New York Times African-American sports columnist Bill Rhoden as a "quota hire" and PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, who is black, as "a cleaning lady."

The legal fight, reports the business magazine's website, could hinge on Federal Communications Commission regulations about appropriate content.

Does "nappy-headed hos" fall under the FCC's definition of profanity, which is "language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance?" asked Arango.

Imus has hired Martin Garbus, a First Amendment expert, as his attorney. Time called the Davis & Gilbert lawyer "one of the best trial lawyers in the country." Garbus told CNN he expects to file a suit against CBS in the near future.

The New York Daily News reports that Imus expects to be back on the air in a few months after spending the summer on his ranch in New Mexico.

Rev. Al Sharpton, who led the drive to oust Imus, told the paper that he will encourage advertisers to boycott Imus if "he returns as his old self."