Recapping a Milestone

This weekend, PRSSA captured the knowledge of a true industry pioneer. Best of all, the interview with Lawrence G. Foster is captured entirely both on film and in print.

Foster, the former Corporate Vice President of Johnson & Johnson, implemented a crisis plan during the 1982 Tylenol crisis that is viewed today as a benchmark in crisis communications. Nearly 25 years later, Foster still recalls the incident as if it happened last month.

Four students traveled to Penn State Friday to conduct this interview: Amanda Egut and Dave Orzechowski of Cuyahoga Community College, Amanda Vasil of Kent State University and Kevin Saghy of Ohio Northern University. Professor John Kerezy of Tri-C coordinated with Penn State to arrange this privileged meeting and also participated in the video questioning.

Mr. Foster provided deep insight into the decision-making for each phase during the crisis. For instance, Johnson & Johnson adhered closely to its Credo in every decision made. This ethical code served as the only written “directions” for Tylenol, as product tampering was unheard of until the Chicago murders. Foster cites this simplicity as a key to Tylenol’s successful handling of the case. To this day, he would abstain from preparing a hefty crisis plan that “can never fully prepare for the actual event.”

Overall, the interview served as a great learning experience for the students involved and an encouraging glimpse into the future of public relations for Lawrence Foster. As we develop video and print materials for PRSSA in the months to come, the ideas and lessons of this weekend will eventually touch even more future professionals.

Special thanks to Mr. Foster, Penn State for facilitating the interview, John Kerezy, the aforementioned interviewing students and those members who sent questions in advance.

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