Ray Jordan, Johnson & Johnson's corporate VP of public affairs and corporate communication, oversees PR for more than 250 operating companies in 57 countries. Over the last 18 months or so, a litany of problems, including recalls and FDA, Department of Justice, and SEC investigations, have damaged the company's reputation. Jordan's immediate priorities are to help manage issues from a communication perspective in the US, while also emphasizing on a global level the positive impact J&J employees and innovations are making in healthcare.
"We've always been focused on getting things right internally, less on seeking visibility for those actions," he explains. "In the current context - with stronger spotlights, transparency, and rapid dissemination - we're focused on being as clear as we can be about issues and steps we're taking to address them."
Complaints of a musty or moldy odor in numerous OTC adult and children's products manufactured by McNeil Consumer Healthcare led to substantial voluntary recalls. Quality issues were uncovered in three US plants. J&J voluntarily closed one in Fort Washington, PA, in April 2010. It was gutted and Jordan says $100 million is being invested to rebuild it as a state-of-the-art facility. A consent decree with the FDA, which puts additional procedures in place to help ensure quality and safety, was announced this past March.
There have been other recalls, too, including two lots of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals' anti-seizure drug Topamax in mid-April. That recall closely followed the widely reported announcement that J&J would pay $70 million in a settlement related to Department of Justice and SEC charges of subsidiaries bribing European doctors and paying kickbacks for contracts to provide humanitarian supplies to Iraq from 2001 to 2003.
Jordan says a significant enough crisis at a brand or franchise level can rapidly become a crisis for the entire enterprise and J&J historically has been consistent in "laddering up" crisis management to the corporate group. While he notes letters and calls have revealed there's still "a strong wellspring of underlying support for J&J," he also says that ultimately the company will earn back trust through demonstrating leadership in safety and quality.
"The challenge is to work the issues, but not let that overwhelm our focus on other parts of the business," he explains. "Some of that has meant becoming more visible in our business advancements than we may traditionally have been. We must remind people of the remarkable progress we're making."
New comms opportunities
In April, J&J announced it will acquire Swiss device maker Synthes, while Centocor Ortho Biotech won FDA approval for metastatic prostate cancer treatment Zytiga. Jordan says both provide excellent communication opportunities to re-emphasize focus on long-term growth and highlight innovations.
David Swearingen, who retired from J&J in 2009 as VP of corporate communications and worked with Jordan in "a couple of tough situations," has enormous respect for him.
"There was never finger-pointing," he recalls. "He's calm and open-minded. People like working for him because he's so approachable."
Jordan, who reports to CEO William Weldon, helped internationalize J&J's communication function and establish formal connections between communication officers across the enterprise. He describes the communication structure as a "combination of dotted and solid lines" that link franchises into J&J's three segments - pharma, consumer, and device and diagnostics - and the segment leaders to him. He also oversees the corporate group.
Teams are encouraged to define and differentiate their franchise; take actions aligned with franchise identity; and drive visibility of those actions. While consistency is vital in some areas, including how to comment on rumors or speculation and financial details, Jordan says communication is often appropriately different across brands and franchises given the broad spectrum of customers and stakeholders.
Jordan's team has communicated steps J&J has taken regarding the recalls through multiple channels. Those include media and analyst relations, the annual shareholder meeting in April, and JNJBTW.com, a blog that has helped provide context and internal perspective, including an April 1 letter Weldon wrote to the editor of Bloomberg BusinessWeek in response to a scathing March 31 story.
Jordan views social media as an opportunity for J&J to provide its unmediated voice. He was instrumental in getting it involved in social media at the corporate level in 2006. Individual brands and franchises each employ their own social media strategies.
Equally adept at communication and business, Jordan earned degrees in math and psychology from Yale and an MBA from Columbia. He began his career as a reporter for a daily paper in Meriden, CT, after helping found his high school's newspaper and working on all aspects of publishing - from writing and editing to production and delivery - for Brown University's Daily Herald.
Paul Meyer met Jordan in the late 1980s when both worked at Pfizer. Meyer, who was then director of public policy, hired Jordan out of operations.
"He's good at a broad variety of things," Meyer says of Jordan. "He's a great quantifier, writer, and creative thinker. I felt his business and operations background would help make our work in policy and communications more relevant. He did both equally well."
After cofounding an operations consultancy in 1977, work with Pfizer and other pharma companies lured Jordan into healthcare. He joined Pfizer in 1986 as a business analyst.
"I was drawn to the healthcare companies' missions and the people working in the industry," he recalls. "It was exciting to consider committing to healthcare, which is what going to work for Pfizer meant in my mind."
Jordan's beginning at J&J
Jordan met J&J communications leaders through work on PhRMA's public affairs and communication committees. He left Pfizer in 2003 to help start the communication practice for J&J's device and diagnostics business.
"Pfizer was a great company to work with," Jordan says, "but I felt J&J would be a very different 'great' company to work with in part because of the difference in the operating model. Pfizer is committed to pharmaceuticals. J&J is decentralized and much more broadly based in healthcare. It's exciting because of the cultural differences."
Jordan is also heavily inspired by his colleagues' commitment and passion.
"There's a passion to do the right things for those we're trying to help," he explains. "The variety and breadth of the business is also a challenge. It helps to have a structure and leaders who can ladder up issues and opportunities as they emerge."
Keeping track of 250-plus companies and four sons leaves little spare time. Still, Jordan finds time to make wine. He typically produces no more than a dozen cases a year, and for the last six years he's been growing vines in his yard in Connecticut. Thus far, they've yielded about 12 ounces of Riesling, which Jordan and his "very tolerant" wife drank in small sips.
"Patience is the main skill required in wine- making," he explains. "If you don't get to something this week, it's fine to get to it four weeks later. It works well with my schedule."
The move to social media
2006: Launched Kilmer House (www.kilmerhouse.com), J&J's first blog, focused on its history and people
2008: Launched J&J Health Channel on YouTube. It hit 3 million views in 2011. Also distributed corporate social media policies and launched SM101, an internal social media educational blog
2009: Launched corporate Twitter (@JNJComm) and Facebook pages (www.facebook.com/jnj)
2010: Launched the "Nursing Notes" Facebook page. (www.facebook.com/jnjnursingnotes), as well as three new Twitter feeds: @JNJStories, @JNJVideo, and @JNJHistory
2003-present: Johnson & Johnson. VP, group comms, medical devices and diagnostics until 2005; He then became corporate VP, public affairs and corporate communication
1986-2003: Pfizer. Various posts from business analyst to VP of comms and information
1977-1986: Southwater Corp., founder and president
1974-1975: Reporter, Morning Record (Meriden, CT)