Johnson & Johnson has gained relevant experience in the field of public relations, given that the group of companies was founded over thirty years ago; it definitely had a role in the evolution of public relations. Indeed, J&J has been held aloft in the PR world for nearly 30 years as the torch-bearer of the “right way’ to handle a crisis (Yaxley, 2010). Its public relations personnel, strategies, implementation process and assessment have matured over the years. Johnson & Johnson is a holding company which majorly deals in pharmaceutical products which are under constant scrutiny due to issues of quality and safety. Therefore a strong public relations policy is required to keep stakeholders informed and at ease. Johnson & Johnson has enjoyed consumer and brand loyalty because it has been in existence for the last thirty years, and still keeping consistency in quality of its products. The pharmaceutical industry is a multi-million dollar generating sector which caters for the health needs of the human race, and therefore is always under close examination not just by governments but consumers as well. For this reason Johnson & Johnson is in regular communication with its stakeholders using a wide variety of media to get across to its target population.
Johnson & Johnson’s has displayed great maturity in its public relations strategy by making use of modern forms of media like blogging, social media marketing and use of a company website. Along with other conventional methods of promoting public relations that include press releases, public speaking, newsletters, particular communication to the press and video and audio instruments meant for distribution to TV or radio content. These factors make articles concerning Johnson and Johnson relatively easy to find. Issues related to the company are regularly documented in formal publications by different agencies which include journals, newspaper articles and blogs. Jonson and Johnson have been trailed by a lot of negative publicity due to legal problems over some of their products; positive publicity has also come from its research and innovations department. All these have contributed to an active PR division constantly providing information and clarification to the public. Publications written are mostly current articles circling Johnson and Johnson and issues that occurs within the last ten years, therefore are mostly dated and the authors appropriately identified and in some cases the institution affiliation is also stated.
Johnson and Johnson is a holding company but its pharmaceutical activities are the most profitable and widely recognized, therefore PR on their pharmaceutical division has been most active. Messages from the research and innovation department are typically complex encoded with scientific terminologies and concepts which are foreign to unspecialized or untrained individuals or general public e.g. Second Genome has entered into an agreement with Janssen Biotech, Inc. with Johnson & Johnson Innovation and its California Innovation Center and the Immunology Therapeutic Area within Janssen Research & progress, LLC, to go into micro biome technicalities and the role they play in ulcerative colitis, with the aim of improving disease understanding and novel drug targets. This consequently has made the context and content of most articles related to J&J contain medical and biological language, involving technical terms and concepts related to the pharmaceutical field with most publications and information derived from the press. Apart from journalists being one of the heaviest users of information generated from J&J’s public relations, others include consumers, the government and it oversight agencies, Johnson and Johnson’s competitors as well as potential investors. Public relations activities are vital in improving communication, company image and therefore market share that equate to profits. Though Johnson & Johnson’s has an averagely effective Pr strategy, they need to improve on the frequency of communication. Transparency is also an issue to be improved on after information was kept from the public regarding recalls (Male, 2010).
The study was intended to research and find out the kind of public relations strategy adopted by Johnson and Johnson’s, and evaluation of its public relations strategy. The study’s major goal is to research on the relationship between the communication cycle and evaluation process. In analysis, clip counting was used to determine the effectiveness of Johnson and Johnson’s public relations. Therefore, the research mainly focused on qualitative analysis, rather than quantitative analysis. Evaluation of the company was conducted by identifying sources of messages from Johnson and Johnson, and analyzing the their reach, location ease of access and their content. After the analysis was completed it was found that the general tone of most of the selected sources was negative. However Johnson and Johnson was able to achieve revenues of $17.6 billion within its third quarter of the 2013 financial year and recorded growth in its European market, how was this possible? The high returns experienced despite negative publicity shadowing Johnson and Johnson for the last 2 years was attributed to, an active public relations strategy that countered damaged left by Johnson and Johnson’s legal problems.
Johnson and Johnson Group is a group of companies involved in the manufacture of medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer goods for the global market. Being a multinational, the company is conducting business in over 57 countries with its products distributed to over 175 countries. Johnson and Johnson company was founded in 1887 by two brothers James Johnson and Edward Johnson, starting with ready-to-use surgical dressings. The medical and pharmaceutical industry is a billion dollar industry netting high profits mainly attributed by economies of scale possessed. According to Forbes Magazine, Johnson and Johnson got $17.6 billion in overall profits by their third quarter in their current financial period. The industry is also a very delicate industry considering that their products are linked to society’s health and often involves direct administration to the body, therefore errors in production equivalent to poisoning. Recognizing that high revenue by these companies and increased demand of medical/ pharmaceutical products regularly caused negligence to creep in the pursuit to satisfy greed, the government all over the world have appreciate the need for firm observation and regulation. Johnson and Johnson company has persevered and evolved over the years in a quest of remaining relevant and profitable (Heath, 2005, pg 176). In the last thirty years Johnson and Johnson has enjoyed consumer loyalty because of its association with quality, therefore ensuring constant ready market for their products. However, the pharmaceutical industry recently is facing several challenges explained below.
- The pharmaceutical industry has been experiencing a slowdown in innovation and development of new drugs and medical solutions. Discovery and approval of new drugs has significantly reduced.
- Increased competition from producers of generic drugs at lower prices has affected market share for existing companies.
- Increased regulation has lead to pressure building in the industry over its viability going forward
The problem of increasing regulation is most problematic to pharmaceuticals. The regulations include; the content of messages of advertisement, research and testing before approval for distribution. Increased policies for regulation mean that the chances of being caught in a law suit are much likely. It also limits the freedom at which the pharmaceutical companies operate and grow therefore affecting revenues generated (Dilenschneider & Bartiromo, 2010, pg 104). Johnson and Johnson in the last year have been in the courtroom more than four times to defend themselves against legal problems, costing the company about $2 billion in fines and compensations. However, these regulations are formulated by governing authorities to protect and serve public interest against harmful or sub-standard products.
Methodology and Findings
Public relations involve planning, targeting, communication, measurement and monitoring and analysis of a PR strategy. Public relations strategies are implemented to improve communication, company image/reputation and distribution of information among its users. The public relations plan is defined in the following steps as described by Francis Jefkins:
- Situation analysis.
- Defining objectives.
- Defining public.
- Media selection.
- Implementation and control.
Situation analysis involves research on the general view of the company by other parties e.g. its employees, consumers, press, management and the general public. It deals majorly with the company’s reputation and how their different information users perceive their relationship with the firm. A company with a good reputation indicates application of an effective communication strategy. Some of the methods that can be used to perform a situation analysis include marketing research which helps determine the effectiveness of their marketing strategies. Viewing of complaints brought against the company assists the company to evaluate their effects on their reputation and possible solutions to the public relations problem. Assessing the company’s financial situation, media attitudes, employee-management relations and community relations all try to assess a problematic area or of potential positive effect to the company.
This stage involves identifying the goals of the firm, in relation to the results obtained from situation analysis. Areas where changes are required to improve performance are located and the best strategy for implementation developed depending on the context and end users of company messages. Once the company has appreciated that communication involving the areas where change is necessary, a communication strategy should be selected.
Communication is the exchange of information and meaning from an individual/group to another individual/group through means such as speaking, writing or signaling. Communication is categorized into verbal and non-verbal/visual, with the process involving five elements namely the sender, message, transmission, receiver and feedback. The receivers/users of information contained in company messages vary. In the case of Johnson and Johnson they included consumers of their products, the government, competitors and potential investors. This flow of information is called the communication cycle demonstrated below;
Encoding Decoding Feedback
Sender message receiver sender
The communication theory framework is a technical field that studies the communication process and information. Communication theory here is observed through any of these view ponts:
- Mechanistic view sees communication as an uninterrupted transmission of messages from the sender to his audience.
- Psychological view describes communication as the act of sending a message as well as the feelings and thoughts aroused on interpretation of the message by the receiver.
- Symbolic interactionist view explains that a message is determined by how the sender says it. Therefore emphasizing on the need for perfection in the method of sending a message.
- Systemic view describes communication in terms the events and interpretations that occur as a message travels from one individual to another.
- Critical view explains that communication is a source of power especially for leadership and can as well be used for oppression of people and groups in society.
The communication process has been tried explained using various models advanced by various people as follows:
- Claude Elwood Shannon and Warren Weaver in 1949 developed in the same way as radio or telephones where there is a sender, channel and receiver. They also associated noise i.e. the absence of communication, to static caused by these technologies by lack of good signal. Messages are sent to a decoder/receiver from the encoder/sender containing information, transformed into a signal adapted for the selected means of transmission to the destination.
- Lasswell’s model is one of the earliest communication models in existence developed in 1948. It suggests that communication is described by answering the questions who says what? Through which channel? To whom is the communication intended for? How efficient is the process? It specifies that a message is transmitted from the communicator through a channel to the audience or a single recipient. It’s also known as the linear model of communication.
- The Barnlund model developed in 1970 aimed to change the singularity of the communication process where communication was of a linear nature. The model intergrates back and forth interaction between the sender and the receiver through the exploitation of the concept of “feedback”. The sender and recipients have filters that adjust the messages sent depending on traditions, gender or culture so that the message holds the intended meaning to a receiver.
In general J&J appears to use the Barnlund model for communication where reactions of its audiences are considered through analyzing feedback, after a message is transmitted from an encoder to the recipient. A good example is the Bloomberg business week article where J&J is seeking approval for testing a new hepatitis C treatment from the FDA and the company events calendar where the company is the sender of the information through verbal and written messages for the latter. Once messages are received feedback is analyzed, for the approval case feedback is generally positive and in support of J&J.
The public is categorized into various groups depending on the different targets/receivers of PR messages or marketing plans audience. This audience may include customers, suppliers, employees, potential investors and leaders/government. The different users use information for different purposes, for example the government uses the company’s financial statements for taxation purposes, consumers use information to stay updated over the company’s product line. Competitors will use articles and press releases to stay abreast with their competitor’s performance, while potential investors would check on financial performance to make informed investment decisions.
Communication is considered effective if the receiver can comprehend the message, if a positive relationship is established between the parties or if the message causes a desired reaction from the receiver (Farwell, 2012, pg 271). The message may end up not being understood or interpreted as intended originally by the sender due limitat6ions such as listening skills, writing skills, background difference and quality of the message. Defining the public is brief involving the process of targeting i.e. determining who needs to receive the message, when and how they should receive the message. Targeting is an important inclusion in the communication process because its important that recipients of messages are first identified in the initial stage of communication, once this is done the content and medium of transfer will come automatically. Through targeting relevant information will be provided in the message in an appropriate language or encoding so that the identified users will be able to easily understand and relate to the message.
After the audience of company advertisements have been identified and categorized the company’s public relations will be able to determine the most appropriate media of transmission of messages. Some possible choices include advertisements, editorials, print and broadcast media, depending on the type of audience and the effective reach an advertisement will have. With increasing innovation and technology digital or online advertising has become a viable choice for PR messages. Conferences and exhibitions are also a medium of giving information through public speaking. For a long time the major PR problem had been the expanding companies fueled by improving economic environment, was to find additional markets for their products. The main markets for these companies potential were almost exhausted therefore for further growth to take place new markets had to be exploited. With the coming of the digital era foreign markets have been tapped because of the media by which PR can use to increase their reach and influence. Digital strategies have been introduced and heavily adopted by companies to influence the reach and frequency at which the companies can reach its targeted audience. Digital strategy has opened the world of social media and blogs dedicated to discussing and analyzing company performance. This has expanded the PR reach to the individual level where personal thoughts can be expressed and considered.
Budgeting for the public relations activities or messaging strategies is important to any company. This process has been advised to increase accountability by the public relations departments just like other resource allocated expenses and be able to prove its relevance to the company.
Implementation and Control
It involves activity prioritization, division of labor and allocation of required resources so that the messaging strategy can be applied and put to action. Provisions for future contingencies are also made in case predicted results are not achieved or the PR strategy choice befalls problems during the implementation stage.
Control on the other hand involves assessing and monitoring the progress of implementation and direction of the implemented strategy in order to produce the required results. Assessment of the strategy can be performed through observation , research, analysis of audience feedbacks and finally through experienced gained over time. Measurement and monitoring involve following the media coverage surrounding public relations information or message and recording the data. Measurement is done on location prominence and number of messages contained in an article. The data accumulated can later be used to create trends for intra-industry comparison, in order to determine the most effective public relations strategies to employ in the company. Media coverage is constantly monitored to produce desired changes when required, just enough coverage is necessary throughout to determine the public’s perception of the company. Monitoring is also important in answering some of the questions stated in the public relations plan which include if the message was understood properly therefore effective.
Quality of a message is determined using the item’s reach to determine if the message has spread out to enough people. Tone of the article is also important; a positive tone encourages interest in the company as well as the total volume of coverage. A negative tone means negative traits are being analyzed. The tone of an article will greatly influence the attitude of the public towards the company and its products; therefore PR aims to maintain positive publicity and a good company image. Clip counting is however a time consuming and tedious undertaking because a PR personnel will have to research and acquire evidence of media coverage and analyze their individual characteristics. Clipping is simple but only determines the qualitative aspect of a PR strategy. Quantitative analysis is made capable through evaluating the amount of content available in the media and how often are they viewed or accessed. It encompasses questions like how many times ha the company been mentioned? It makes use of data accumulated from the measuring and monitoring activities of the public relations strategy. Various comparisons and criteria can be used to analyze this information.
The success of the plan is analyzed using cost of advertising against returns/sales. This method is called the Advertising Cost Equivalent. Mathematical data can also be used to compare with data from competitors to determine the most appropriate PR plan for the particular industry. However, quantitative analysis has faced several setbacks to its use which include; the difficulty in determining the criteria to be used to determine the degree of effectiveness of the strategy. Having the knowledge that different companies use varying public relations strategies makes comparability difficult between competing companies. Public relations is a discipline that is continuously evolving and changing depending on the economic environment prevailing. Of late company public relations have been under increased pressure to provide measurable outcomes against every dollar spent on routine communication activities (Hayes, 2013, pg 98).
The communication cycle is an important part of making a company run efficiently. With employment of an appropriate PR strategy, a company is capable of transmitting the right information to the correct receiver within an acceptable timeframe. A good communication cycle is one that improves spread or access to information both inside and outside the organization. Public relations are expected to continuously monitor the company’s PR’s strategy in order to induce desired expectations. A public relations strategy is useless if not accompanied by evaluation of the plan in order to determine the effectiveness of the employed strategy.
Dilenschneider, R., & Bartiromo, M. 2010. The AMA handbook of public relations. New York, NY: AMACOM, American Management Association.
Farwell, J. P. 2012. Persuasion and power: The art of strategic communication. DC: Georgetown University Press.
Hayes, D. C., Hendrix, J. A., & Kumar, P. D. 2013. Public relations cases. Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Heath, R. 2005. Encyclopedia of public relations. CA: Sage.
Sheil, A., & Violanti, M. 2013. Dynamic public relations: The 24/7 PR cycle. Boston: Pearson.