Social media’s role in modern public relations

Social media can be a bullhorn, but it can also be a very effective tool for one-on-one interaction.

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A notable example of public relations at its finest was Johnson & Johnson’s reaction to the 1982 Tylenol crisis. Unknown suspects placed lethal doses of cyanide into Tylenol capsules after they reached the shelves. Once this became public—due to the deaths of several people—Johnson & Johnson had to react.

The brand assumed responsibility, issued a total item recall, halted all advertisement, and even refused to continue capsule production. Johnson & Johnson sent a message loud and clear: It stood by its credo and placed the safety of consumers above all else.

To share its statement, Johnson & Johnson relied mainly on traditional publications and media coverage. Jumping forward 31 years, social media now affords brands the opportunity to present a statement immediately and simultaneously across several platforms, address a mass audience with the most up-to-date information, and interact with consumers directly.

This brings traditional public relations to a new level. For example, the Tylenol brand could now warn consumers immediately to cease using their capsules, could answer questions and concerns on a personal level, and could keep its audiences informed on the situation as it developed.

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