Monthly Archives: October 2012

James E Burke died last week.

Though most folks won’t know him by name they will know his contribution to business management and crisis communication.

He was CEO of Johnson & Johnson when the Tylenol crisis happened in 1982.

Every business student and communication practitioner has studied and memorized the Tylenol case because of how successfully they, or he, handled a terrible event that potentially could have destroyed a company and a brand after the horrible deaths of seven people.

In later interviews he had said J&J didn’t have a crisis communication plan. He and the company made decisions as they went along and much can be attributed to the humanity in J&J’s response because of the type of person he was reported to be – very decent.

His instincts were to be honest and forthright – say you don’t know when you don’t and keep everyone current as information became available. Also to accept responsibility.

In Mr. Burke’s obit in NY Times, Jack Welch formerly chairman of GE said “[Mr. Burke’s response] taught corporations a lesson about candor. It was a huge legacy to leave: When you have a problem, deal with it openly, up front.”

It is the same basic instructions we as communication professionals tell our clients to do in day-to-day communication or during a crisis. What’s amazing is that 30 years hence individuals, organizations, and governments still don’t do it.

One last thought, there were other changes that came out of the Tylenol crisis – how OTC products are configured, packaged, and promoted – something to remember when at 2 a.m. you struggle to open a bottle of aspirin. It is for a reason.

Sound familiar…can you identify with this woman’s data trail?

NYTimes tracked One Woman’s Data Trail Diary ( and commented on how normal it probably is for most of us working souls. 

TIME Magazine dedicated an August edition to the digital state of the US and the world.

Yep, that’s us.

Technology in all forms is here to stay….so we need to adjust.

And with almost 60% of people in developing countries having access to smart devices of some form do their government leaders…and even development experts….under estimate the capability of their populations/citizens to use and benefit from emerging technologies.

Think B.I.G. folks. 

Communication professionals everywhere are grappling with how to monitor content and respond to misrepresentation and devastating rumors….USG and other governing bodies along with private companies, e.g., Google, FaceBook, are drawing lines on privacy, ownership, and censorship. Technology is moving much faster than policies, procedures, and regulations.

We need to contribute to setting the standards and the value of these technologies….not ignore them or be paralyzed by them.

For the past several years I’ve conducted communication workshops all over the world as well as have worked with other communication professionals to develop effective communication plans and the question that repeatedly comes up is – How do you respond to incorrect — read, negative and malicious – information posted on the internet and through social media.

Short answer: It is tough.

Anyone with an opinion and a computer or smart phone can do irreparable damage by spreading wrong information presented as Truth.

Even tomorrow’s first Presidential Debate of the 2012 election is unlike other Presidential Debates in that everyone watching the debate can be an expert and instantaneously show their approval or disapproval via social media.

I for one will watch with one eye on the debate and one on Twitter.

The worry we communication practitioners have about social media – though we see it as a marvelous media channel – is also shared with the media companies, i.e., Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. How do they better police themselves to keep inflammatory stories and information off their sites and hold users accountable while not infringing on free speech.

NY Times provides background on what key actors are discussing on this big issue which will have major impact over the next decade.