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Not Quite the Tylenol Team

This article from the NY Times shows just how much things have changed since the Tylenol incident from the 80s. I don’t have all the facts, but when I read things like this:

A spokesman for Johnson & Johnson, Mark Wolfe, said: “We disagree with the outcome of this trial. We are evaluating our legal options.”

it makes me realize that this isn’t the same team that worked on the crises from yesteryear. Before Crisis PR, before worlds of spin, and flacks doing damage control, Johnson and Johnson relied on their creed to help them weather a horrific tragedy. Now, things seem different, more litigious, less consumer friendly.

Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers contend that Ms. Thompson did not die of a fentanyl overdose and that there was no evidence her patch leaked. They attributed her death to “natural causes,” like heart problems.

I’m interested in seeing how this all pans out. Will this turn out to be a case of a company protecting itself from lawyers, doctors, and ignorant consumers – or – will this turn out to be a rather large blotch on the Johnson and Johnson name?

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CIBA Vision Shortage – They’re Alive! – sort of

Update V: (3/6) I really appreciate how often people have stopped by to share experiences and stories with all of us. In light of CIBA Vision’s lack of communication, it’s good to have a place to converse about our problems and fill that void. I do want to caution everyone, though, about checking sources and verifying information before taking any advice shared on this site. I’m a communicator, not a medical person, and I can’t speak for any of the people who leave comments on this blog. Before taking any advice, check with a professional. The Internet is a great resource, but can be abused, use caution.

That said, I just want to point out a new story I read on CNN Today. Baush & Lomb is still having problems, as well. What the heck is going on with eye care products? For so many months we’ve been seeing this industry suffer unexplained accidents. Keep your eyes and ears open for news and continue to share it here. Peace. [end update]

Update IV: (6/2) We have product stocked in NE Ohio. Another reader left this comment, which I wanted to bring to attention.

Got their email today, May 31, 2006 @ 8AM PST (California)

Hi Bruce,

Thank you again for contacting CIBA Vision. This is the latest list of retailers to carry CLEAR CARE. Due to a manufacturing facility upgrade, it has put us in a backorder situation. The upgrade took longer than anticipated.

Albertsons, Bergen Brunswick, CVS, Drugs Store.com, Duane Reade Corp., Fred Meyer, H.E. Butt Grocery, Harmon Stores, Harris Teeter, Inc, HY Vee Food Stores, Imperial Distributors, Kinney Drug Companyu, K-Mart, Kroger,Marsh Supermarkets, Maxi Drugs,McKesson, Meijer, Inc, Progressive Distributors, Pulix Supermarkets, Raleys Supermarkets, Rite Aid, Roundy’s, Safewaty, Shopko, Sparten Stores, Supervalue, Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Wegmans, Weis Markets, and Winn Dixie. We started shipping March 22, 2006, to their distribution centers for allocation to their locations. Once it reaches their distribution center they tell us the turn around is 7 to 14 days to get it out to the stores. We are continually shipping to these centers and we hope that they can get it into the stores in a timely fashion. We do not have a schedule of the stores are distribution times as we do not deliver to the stores themselves, just to their warehouses. Softwear Saline will be available again in September.
Please ask your eye care professional what he or she would recommend in the interim.
Again thank you for contacting CIBA Vision.

Kind regards,
CIBA Vision Consultation

UPDATE: A kind reader named Jessica just left a comment on this post and on this post which I will cut and paste some of for your information. It reads:

Hi Jessica,
Thank you for contacting CIBA Vision. We always appreciate hearing from our consumers’ with their concerns and comments. Due to a manufacturing upgrade our products are on backorder. AO Sept will be available the second week of April and Clear Care will be back on the shelves at Wal-Mart, Target, CVS and Walgreens the first week of April. Please ask you eye care professional what you can use in the interim.We are sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. Again, thank you for contacting CIBA Vision.

Kind Regards Sherry Vanore Product Consultant

So at least now we know that CIBA Vision has actual people working there instead of CIBA Vision Consultation Specialists. I wish there were a way to express to CIBA Vision how mistreated we all felt, but they seem to have the market cornered on this type of product. I’m open to suggestions, an organization shouldn’t be able to treat customers this way and get away with it. Thanks, Jessica, now we know what we can expect.

After my somewhat bitter post on March 3 about CIBA Vision and their silence regarding a shortage of numerous products including Clear Care, AOsept, and others – a story finally emerged. Of course, it wasn’t CIBA Vision who announced that, it was Lori Rackl, a health reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times, whowrote a story

regarding the shortage. She actually has quotes from a person with a name from CIBA Vision.

My post generated quite a wide range of comments from all over the US and even into Canada. Ottawa, Rhode Island, Minnesota, California, Seattle, Dallas, Ohio, Conneticut, Viriginia – and these are just the people who left comments. Our traffic has nearly tripled since I posted information about this disaster. It’s been quite a refuge for people seeking answers and offering advice. A great group of people, these are. Some even revisted to post additional information knowing that this was the only place (that I know of) for answers.

CIBA Vision, what were you thinking? This is, unfortunately, probably not going to damage your reputation enough to financially affect you – but I kind of wish it would. There’s a lesson to be learned here – communicate! Why torture your loyal consumers, which is what has happened. It frustrates, disappoints, and angers me all at once. This isn’t just revenue, these are people with eye care issues, who rely on your services and products. And you’ve been slapping them across the face for over a month. Especially since Rackl’s article indicates that you were aware of all of this MONTHS before the shortage hit the stores. And no backup plan (see my other post) other than “we would recommend contacting your eye care professional for their recommendation of the best solution for your lenses in the interim.” I guess you’re lucky you don’t have a lot of direct competition. Unfortunately.

Turning a blind eye from CIBA Vision

Update V: (3/6) I really appreciate how often people have stopped by to share experiences and stories with all of us. In light of CIBA Vision’s lack of communication, it’s good to have a place to converse about our problems and fill that void. I do want to caution everyone, though, about checking sources and verifying information before taking any advice shared on this site. I’m a communicator, not a medical person, and I can’t speak for any of the people who leave comments on this blog. Before taking any advice, check with a professional. The Internet is a great resource, but can be abused, use caution.

That said, I just want to point out a new story I read on CNN Today. Baush & Lomb is still having problems, as well. What the heck is going on with eye care products? For so many months we’ve been seeing this industry suffer unexplained accidents. Keep your eyes and ears open for news and continue to share it here. Peace. [end update]

Update IV: (6/2) We have product stocked in NE Ohio. Another reader left this comment, which I wanted to bring to attention.

Got their email today, May 31, 2006 @ 8AM PST (California)

Hi Bruce,

Thank you again for contacting CIBA Vision. This is the latest list of retailers to carry CLEAR CARE. Due to a manufacturing facility upgrade, it has put us in a backorder situation. The upgrade took longer than anticipated.

Albertsons, Bergen Brunswick, CVS, Drugs Store.com, Duane Reade Corp., Fred Meyer, H.E. Butt Grocery, Harmon Stores, Harris Teeter, Inc, HY Vee Food Stores, Imperial Distributors, Kinney Drug Companyu, K-Mart, Kroger,Marsh Supermarkets, Maxi Drugs,McKesson, Meijer, Inc, Progressive Distributors, Pulix Supermarkets, Raleys Supermarkets, Rite Aid, Roundy’s, Safewaty, Shopko, Sparten Stores, Supervalue, Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Wegmans, Weis Markets, and Winn Dixie. We started shipping March 22, 2006, to their distribution centers for allocation to their locations. Once it reaches their distribution center they tell us the turn around is 7 to 14 days to get it out to the stores. We are continually shipping to these centers and we hope that they can get it into the stores in a timely fashion. We do not have a schedule of the stores are distribution times as we do not deliver to the stores themselves, just to their warehouses. Softwear Saline will be available again in September.
Please ask your eye care professional what he or she would recommend in the interim.
Again thank you for contacting CIBA Vision.

Kind regards,
CIBA Vision Consultation

Update III: CIBA Vision in more trouble…

UPDATE II: A kind reader named Jessica just left a comment on this post and on this post which I will cut and paste for your information. It reads:

Hi Jessica,
Thank you for contacting CIBA Vision. We always appreciate hearing from our consumers’ with their concerns and comments. Due to a manufacturing upgrade our products are on backorder. AO Sept will be available the second week of April and Clear Care will be back on the shelves at Wal-Mart, Target, CVS and Walgreens the first week of April. Please ask you eye care professional what you can use in the interim.We are sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. Again, thank you for contacting CIBA Vision.

Kind Regards Sherry Vanore Product Consultant

So at least now we know that CIBA Vision has actual people working there instead of CIBA Vision Consultation Specialists. I wish there were a way to express to CIBA Vision how mistreated we all felt, but they seem to have the market cornered on this type of product. I’m open to suggestions, an organization shouldn’t be able to treat customers this way and get away with it. Thanks, Jessica, now we know what we can expect.

Update: This post has generated a lot of interest. Apparently, I’m the only one spreading the word on the Internet about this situation. CIBA Vision ought to be paying me for covering their lousy communication. If you’re interested in information, be sure to check out the comments section as readers have posted quite a bit of information regarding this. Leave a note, tell me how outraged and irritated you are.

This may come as a shock to you, but as a public relations student, I feel it’s important for businesses to communicate with their publics. I know, it’s crazy, but that’s just how I feel – call me a rebel. So why is it that when a company has problems getting product to customers, they don’t feel it’s all that important to tell someone. Someone like me, a customer.

CIBA Vision is that contact lens and lens care manufacturer that makes, for one, Clear Care a lens cleaning solution. I use Clear Care, I like it. It makes my eyes feel moist and comfortable. But lately the stores in my area have had giant gaps on the shelves where my Clear Care should be. I first noticed in my town, but then scoured the area looking in any place that sells contact lens solution. No dice. “Why,” I thought, “why is there no product on the shelves?” Well surely the website will tell me. But in fact, that’s not the case.

I check the website on February 26 and saw nothing. No mention of any recalls, distribution problems, manufacturing problems. I even asked a pharmacist at a Target who said, “uh, I think it was recalled, I don’t know.” Then I searched online to see if I could find anything. I’m a graduate student, so I feel I had exhaustively researched the topic online. If there had been anything, I’m pretty sure I would have found mention of it. So I finally sent CIBA Vision a little note from their website contact page asking what the problem was, why I couldn’t find any information online about the problem, and why they weren’t communicating any of this information to their consumers. I live in Ohio, they are HQed in Georgia, I’m sure I’m not the only one having this problem. Here is the response:

Dear Luke,

Thank you for your e-mail. We would like to sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced in locating the Clear Care system. Clear Care has not been discontinued or recalled. Due to a manufacturing upgrade of our manufacturing site, supplies of Clear Care may be limited on retail shelves. We are working diligently to return to full production as quickly as possible, and anticipate increased supplies of Clear Care to be available in at store shelves in early April 2006. Until then, we would recommend contacting your eye care professional for their recommendation of the best solution for your lenses in the interim.

Again, we would like to greatly apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you again for contacting CIBA Vision.

Kind regards,
CIBA Vision Consultation Services

Wow. Early April? It’s just now March. And who is “CIBA Vision Consultation Services” anyway? These people don’t have names? If you’re going to have this sort of problem getting product to consumers, wouldn’t you be more forthcoming in mentioning this? Are they afraid people will find another brand and never go back? But that’s what “CIBA Vision Consultation Services” told me, isn’t it, to find something else that would work until April? They answered my main questions pretty well, neglected to comment on why they never bothered to make this information readily available.
I guess I would have handled things differently.

By the way, I did manage to find two bottles of solution at a Target that looked like someone in the back room found them on the floor of the storeroom behind a door under a garbage can. A smart person must have noticed the shortage and said, “put them on the shelf, someone will buy it.” So, yes, I bought them. I’m like a junkie.

I’m interested in your thoughts. Should they have been more communicative? Don’t they trust their consumers with information? Maybe they could have sent out a notice before the “manufacturing upgrade”? Maybe this is how they do business. I don’t like it. Turning a blind eye on your publics is never what I would suggest. Anyone choose to offer an opinion? Maybe “CIBA Vision Consultation Services” monitors the Internet and will respond.

Kryptonite II – I blinked and missed it

I hate to rehash what amounts to an enormous and severely beaten topic, but I just have to know. Where did I miss the second half of this debacle? From a PR standpoint, this certainly takes a revisit. Apologies if you’re tired of the subject.

For those of you who don’t know (and I imagine a fair many of you don’t, so that’s okay), I’ll try to sum it up for you.

This is an incredibly simplified version. See the links below for more detailed information.

Kryponite Lock is a company that makes, you guessed it, bike locks. In 2004 several videos circulated across the Internet demonstrating how to defeat a certain type of lock style with a typical ballpoint pen. The news originally broke on an “online forum,” and this is important later on. This spells bad news for Kryptonite, right? Well, the blogosphere went crazy and there was quite an uproar even in some traditional mediums. Things got blown out of proportion – as I hope to detail in later posts – because of the mob mentality of parts of the blogosphere. I say “parts of the blogosphere” not all. But I’m digressing.

So to make a long story longer, this went on for some time and finally Kryptonite offered a lock exchange program to replace (here’s a interesting note) not only the pickable locks, but many other locks as well at a significant cost to the company. Sounds great. Word is that Kryptonite suffered irrepairable losses because of this crisis, which could have been avoided if only they had been monitoring the blogosphere. Is this true? Could it have been avoided? Were they not being constantly vigilant?

Well guess what, maybe they were.

Kryptonite has become the poster child for “Blogosphere Monitoring, how NOT to do it,” and why not? Well, because Donna Tocci, Public Relations Manager for Kryponite, argues that they were watching, they knew about it from day one. I did some online snooping and came across several blog interviews with Tocci that range from April 2005, to December 2005 (see the links below for more information). Here are my new thoughts about the issue:

  • Too slow to see? No. Tocci indicates they knew about it from day one. The interviews go into chronological detail (especially the Naked Conversations blog post). Good eye, but it’s what you do with that information that matters.
  • Too slow to talk? I say yes. Donna admits that maybe they could have communicated better. It’s a relatively small company and they had various angles to contend with during this and it affected their communications. Could be trouble.
  • Too slow to act? I don’t think so. Donna makes some great cases for not implementing a plan until they had every aspect covered. Sounds good and I agree. You can’t institute a lock replacement program until you can figure out distribution, storage, costs, etc. This takes time.
  • Too slow to get the real story out? I might have to agree. The initial story broke in September, 2004. The first mention I see of Tocci out in the blogosphere trying to get the real story out is April 2005, then July 2005, then December 2005, and into 2006. In my email conversation with Donna she wrote, “This was just the time frame that we were able to start some conversations.” Again, back to the fact that they had scads to do during the crisis. Is that a good reason to drop the communication ball? No one would agree if asked, but it’s the pressure of the situation that really determines what kind of communicator you are. Let’s all remember this: no matter what happens, you must still communicate. Either way, Tocci did go out and get the truth out. Maybe late, but she was tenacious about telling Kryptonite’s story. All last year she was doing interviews, on blogs, posting comments, replying to emails, being available. That’s good communication. She even answered my email to rehash what they consider a closed topic. And who am I? Just a student, trying to learn the truth, trying to share a case study that everyone already assumed had gone wrong. But I maintain this: It wasn’t as wrong as people said it was, not by a long shot.

I posit that the blogosphere is like TV or Radio News at times. If it isn’t sensational, it’s not going to make the cut. Bad news is always news, but good news is fluff. (At least that’s how some journalists make communicators feel at times – oops, my PR is showing). My point? When it hit the fan for Kryptonite everyone and their grandmother was writing about it, but when the real story comes out, people don’t care. I indicated this to Tocci who wrote, “This is a very big generalization. The news of our lock exchange program did get out lots and lots of people through the internet and traditional media sources. But, yes, as in most mediums controversy ‘sells’.” And that’s why I actually had to search to find the second half of this story. You couldn’t read a PR blog, listen to a PR podcast, or read books about the blogosphere without hearing about this mess when it first came out. But after that I had to search for it. And – oh boy – it’s out there.
There is also a thread of information in the following posts that Kryptonite knew about the faulty locks since 1992 when a British publication wrote about it. I’ve read enough articles to gather that Kryptonite Locks weren’t specifically mentioned, so people are putting too much emphasis on that article. However, brand name listed or not, why didn’t they check it out? Do we have a problem here? In crisis PR we call that a prodrome, noticing circumstances that have the potential to become crises. None of the Tocci interviews go into detail about that, she states the article never mentioned Kryptonite Locks.

But the myth remains, blogs nearly destroyed Kryptonite, blogs discovered the ineptitude of a shoddy company, you have to monitor the blogosphere, Kryptonite did a lousy job, etc etc. You can think whatever you like, I don’t care. What I care about is researching the truth. How many other people did that? From a PR standpoint, It’s true that you need to monitor the Internet, it’s true you need to know what your publics are saying about you. But it’s also true that you need to communicate as often as possible, especially during a crisis. Maybe Kryptonite knew from day one, maybe they could have done more, been better communicators. Even in the aftermath, why does it take so long to get the real story out, over so many channels, over so long a period of time? PR is about communicating effectively, right?

Check out the links below to read interviews with Tocci, opinions and all. If you read on, make sure you read all the comments as Tocci usually follows up to people’s questions. PR flack or honest communicator? I’ve formed my opinion, but let me know your thoughts.