Lysol Clorox PR responses

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Lysol and Clorox were applauded for their quick PR actions following President Trump’s suggestion to inject disinfectants into patients to treat COVID-19. At a press briefing last week, Trump proposed that an injection of disinfectant into the body could kill the virus. He didn’t name a specific kind of disinfectant. He later said he was misinterpreted.

Lysol promptly issued a statement warning against any internal use of its cleaning product. “Due to recent speculation and social media activity, RB (the makers of Lysol and Dettol) has been asked whether internal administration of disinfectants may be appropriate for investigation or use as a treatment for coronavirus. As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” Reckitt Benckiser, the company that owns the brand, stated.

“As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information. We have a responsibility in providing consumers with access to accurate, up-to-date information as advised by leading public health experts. For this and other myth-busting facts, please visit”

Lysol also posted the warning on its website and Twitter, where it pinned the tweet to the top of its profile.

Brands Avoid Pointing Fingers

Trump’s remarks were widely rebuffed by medical experts and criticized by political commentators. But the brand wisely avoided the political quagmire by saying it was responding to “recent speculation” Pointing fingers would have distracted from its message.

Besides stating a clear public service message the brands gained valuable social media attention and earned media coverage. “The method of earning this media may have been unusual, but the payoff is outstanding, because the brands were ready to pull the trigger on a response that allowed them to grab a piece of this narrative and insert their message into the cycle as it was happening,” notes 5W Public Relations.

The timing was important to the successful PR response, as people were just beginning to see social media reactions about the comments, the agency notes.

Clorox issued a similar statement that said bleach and other disinfectants are not suitable for consumption or injection under any circumstances. The products are safe when used properly and help stop the spread of COVID-19, it stated, referencing the Centers for Disease Control. The brand also avoided pointing fingers.

Tide Pod Challenge Redux

The responses were reminiscent of Tide’s response to the Tide Pod challenge. In a 2018 fad, people filmed themselves eating Tide Pods and uploaded the videos to YouTube or social media. Instead of ignoring the videos or dismissing the craze as juvenile stupidity, Tide-manufacturer Proctor & Gamble addressed the problem head on by issuing PSAs, press statements, and social media posts that bluntly warned about the dangers of eating Tide Pods. It also pressed YouTube and Facebook to remove Tide Pod Challenge videos.

Bottom Line: Besides safeguarding public health, Lysol’s and Clorox’s prompt actions gained attention and respect without entering the political battlefield. The incident shows how corporate PR and communications teams must continue to monitor the news media and be prepared to act promptly.