Coping with Catastrophe

Crisis management becomes the new corporate discipline

When a New York woman died on Feb. 8 after taking cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules, executives at Johnson & Johnson, maker of the painkiller, saw an old nightmare returning to haunt them. They recalled all too vividly how their company was shaken in 1982 after seven people in Illinois died from poisoned Tylenol. This time, Johnson & Johnson was ready. Responding swiftly and smoothly to the new crisis, it immediately and indefinitely canceled all television commercials for Tylenol, established a toll-free telephone hotline to answer consumer questions and offered refunds or exchanges to customers who had purchased Tylenol capsules. At week's end,...

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