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  • Writer's pictureSPRD

From Peril to Promise: How PR Salvaged Crisis

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

History is fraught with tales of crisis and resilience, and the corporate world is no stranger to this tumultuous dance.

A big crisis can shake an organisation to its core. It can ruin reputations, stop day-to-day work, and in the worst cases, it can even mean the end of a company. But it is in these moments of trouble that an organisation shows its true strength and decides its future. In this article, we will walk through different stories, each showing a time when an organisation overcame challenges.

From big corporate lies to product failures and public scandals, these situations looked almost impossible to fix. But with careful communication and a strong effort to rebuild trust, these companies managed to not just get through the tough times, but many came out stronger on the other side.

The Peculiar Case of the Tylenol Tampering

Let us first traverse back to 1982, when Johnson & Johnson faced a crisis that could very well be described as a nightmare. Tylenol, a pain-relieving product, was tampered with, leading to seven tragic deaths. The company was at a crossroads, with public trust hanging by a thread.

However, what unfolded was a masterclass in crisis management. Johnson & Johnson immediately pulled 31 million bottles off the shelves, amounting to a loss of over $100 million. They communicated openly with the public, placing consumer safety above all else. Johnson & Johnson held regular press conferences and released numerous media statements to keep the public informed about what was happening. They shared information about the tampering, the steps they were taking to address the issue, and what consumers should do to stay safe.

They also worked closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and local law enforcement to investigate the tampering and ensure that all contaminated products were removed from store shelves. They communicated their cooperation with these authorities to the public, helping build trust.

The organisation introduced tamper-proof packaging, setting a new industry standard. The swift and transparent actions, guided by an unwavering commitment to ethical responsibility, not only salvaged the company’s reputation but also reinstated Tylenol’s market position. By 1983, Tylenol’s market share had rebounded to 30%.

The Untold Saga of the Odwalla E. Coli Outbreak

Fast forward to 1996, and we find ourselves amidst the Odwalla crisis. The crisis unfolded when a tainted batch of apple juice, contaminated with the deadly E. Coli bacteria, made its way into the hands of consumers, resulting in numerous cases of severe illness and, most tragically, the death of a young child.

Steps that the brand took

Odwalla, a brand that had built its reputation on the freshness and natural quality of its products, found itself in the eye of a storm. The situation was dire, and the potential for long-lasting damage to the brand was immense. Yet, it was in this moment of profound crisis that Odwalla showcased an exemplary model of accountability and immediate response. Without hesitation, the company took immediate steps to address the situation head-on. They issued a comprehensive recall of all products containing apple juice, an operation that cost the company millions but underscored their commitment to consumer safety. Odwalla did not stop there; they established a fund to aid the outbreak's victims, ensuring support and compensation for those affected.

Understanding the importance of communication in such critical times, Odwalla proactively engaged with the public and the media. They were transparent about the situation, sharing information openly and consistently, and expressing genuine remorse for the impact on their customers. This communication strategy was not just about damage control; it was a sincere effort to rebuild trust and convey to their consumers that Odwalla was fully invested in rectifying the situation and preventing future incidents.

By placing accountability, transparency, and consumer welfare at the forefront of their response, Odwalla navigated through the crisis with integrity. The aftermath of the E. Coli outbreak saw Odwalla undertaking a rigorous review of its quality control processes, investing in new technology and practices to ensure the safety of its products.

In the years that followed, Odwalla managed to rebuild its brand and regain consumer trust, transforming a tragic crisis into a story of responsibility, resilience, and commitment to excellence.

The Enigma of the Perrier Benzene Scandal

Blast through the time barrier, in 1990, Perrier, a brand synonymous with purity, faced a crisis that struck at the very heart of its identity. Benzene, a carcinogenic substance, was found in its bottled water. The organisational response was prompt, with a worldwide recall of 160 million bottles. However, the initial attempts to blame an isolated incident and a 'bad batch' backfired.

Perrier had to recalibrate its strategy, acknowledging the problem's systemic nature and taking responsibility. The brand invested significantly in revamping its filtration processes and quality control measures, ensuring such a mishap would never recur. This crisis, handled with a mix of speed and accountability, fortified Perrier’s commitment to quality, showcasing that even the mightiest can stumble but also rise again, stronger and wiser.

The Symphony of Crisis Management and PR Mastery

As we reflect on these extraordinary tales of organisational crisis and the mastery of public relations, it becomes evident that the path to solving problems, while fraught with challenges, is navigable. It demands a steadfast commitment to transparency, accountability, and an unwavering focus on problem-solving. These stories, unique and unheard of, serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of organisations and the transformative power of adept crisis management.

In the larger picture of organisational history, these crisis stand as poignant reminders that even in the darkest hours, through strategic communication, ethical responsibility, and genuine commitment to change, organisations can not only weather the storm but emerge from it with renewed strength and resilience.


Psst! This blog was made with 💕 and created after some thought by a real person.


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