How Johnson & Johnson could regain the trust in publicity during the COVID-19 vaccine crisis?

During the COVID-19 crisis, vaccines are one of the best solutions for society and the economy of every country. Johnson Johnson, a giant pharmaceutical company, was also involved in the COVID-19 vaccine race. But after the declaration of putting its vaccine pause in the USA because of blood clotting side effects linked with women, this company has a burden to deal with the significant crisis.

Hours after the pause announcement, J&J said it would delay rolling out their vaccine in Europe, and the society's trust in Johnson Johnson vaccine has fallen dramatically. J&J representative said a statement on their website:

"The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority. We are aware of an extremely rare disorder involving people with blood clots in combination with low platelets in a small number of individuals who have received our Covid-19 vaccine."

"We have been working closely with medical experts and health authorities, and we strongly support the open communication of this information to healthcare professionals and the public."

It's not the first time J&J dealing with public relations crisis. They have recovered from some big pharmaceuticals storms. Those crises have ranged from the 7 deaths of people who use extra-strength Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide to a denounce report from Reuters about that J&J tried to cover up the raw material talcum powder could be contaminated with asbestos for a decade. That report leads to a decrease of 10% in company stock's price.

Some strategic consultants and crisis management experts have given several ways that could help J&J recover from the latest issue:


J&J needs to address the crisis head-on by putting humanity at the top of priority and describing all of the steps to ensure the vaccine is safe. They should create a concise message which has to be delivered by the head and echo this message to the public.

Minimize the erosion of trust

The public trust deficit not only impacts J&J customers but also, most importantly, their policymakers and investors. Therefore, it's essential to supplement their message with behind-the-scenes information sharing to ensure that all processes are transparent. J&J should be patient and ready to bombard all media platforms with statics, testimonials, and even KOL campaigns.

Education and transparency

Although most pharmaceutical companies hide their process of drug discovery and vaccination development from the general public, J&J should consider exposing more of that process:

  • Don't be quiet about what is going on.

  • Empower people through transparency.

  • Explain how the audiences can search for blood clotting to differentiate whether the vaccine or other factors cause this side effect.

Strong leaders acknowledge their issues, as K&J did with the Tylenol crisis many years ago. Showing people that they are listening and understanding the concern towards their vaccine is the best approach, and having a balancing act with a detailed plan to address them. J&J needs to prove that they are leading the problems and not just creating. Any waiting longer further erodes trust.


Forbes (2021)

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