The FBI requested a DNA sample yesterday from Ted Kaczynski, the "unabomber," in connection with the 1982 Tylenol poisonings, reawakening a monumental crisis communications case study for practitioners.
The Chicago-area poisonings killed seven people nearly 30 years ago and led to massive panic, prompting Tylenol maker Johnson & Johnson to halt advertising and issue an immediate nationwide recall. The incident resulted in improved industry-wide product safety standards, including tamper-proof seals, and increased security at manufacturing plants.
Johnson & Johnson's numerous efforts, which followed the company's credo to put the needs of others first, were widely applauded by the public and PR industry. The recall, a first of its kind, resulted in more than $100 million in losses for the company, but was quickly recovered through the introduction of a new pricing plan, and various other measures.
Whether or not Kaczynski is found to be involved, PR professionals and corporate communications executives will continue to look at this case as a superior model for their crisis work.