3M Leans on Owned ...



Owned media at its best can provide a counter-balance to perceived injustices from the media and social channels.

Organizations ranging from Google to Walmart to the Brookings Institution have depended on their blogs to deliver their point-of-view to blunt an attack.

Now comes 3M, under fire last week (April 2) from President Trump who said, “the company isn’t doing enough” to make the N95 masks.

N95 face masks manufactured by 3M


One day later the company published “3M Response to Defense Production Act Order” on its news center.

Two variables determine the success of this type of counter-punch.

First, they must be timely like 3M’s response. If too much time elapses, the online information cycle (more than news) runs amok. At such a point, inserting your POV into the issue is like trying to drain the ocean with teaspoon. 3M is.

And the actual narrative must make the company’s case with a combination of logic, emotions and facts. Highlighting the adjectives and adverbs offers a decent litmus test for the narrative:


3M issued the following statement in response to the announcements issued by the White House last evening:

Over the last several weeks and months, 3M and its employees have gone above and beyond to manufacture as many N95 respirators as possible for the U.S. market. Yesterday, the Administration formally invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to require 3M to prioritize orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for our N95 respirators.

We have been working closely with the Administration to do exactly that, and we appreciate the authorities in the DPA that provide a framework for us to expand even further the work we are doing in response to the global pandemic crisis. We look forward to working with FEMA to implement yesterday’s order.

In the course of our collaboration with the Administration this past weekend, the Administration requested that 3M increase the amount of respirators we currently import from our overseas operations into the U.S. We appreciate the assistance of the Administration to do exactly that. For example, earlier this week, we secured approval from China to export to the U.S. 10 million N95 respirators manufactured by 3M in China.

The Administration also requested that 3M cease exporting respirators that we currently manufacture in the United States to the Canadian and Latin American markets. There are, however, significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a critical supplier of respirators. In addition, ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done. If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease. That is the opposite of what we and the Administration, on behalf of the American people, both seek.

We also continue to act on reports of price gouging and unauthorized reselling related to 3M respirators. This activity is unethical and illegal. We are working with the U.S. Attorney General and attorneys general of every state, making it clear that 3M has not and will not raise prices for respirators and offering our assistance in the fight.

We look forward to working closely with the Administration to implement yesterday’s DPA order. We will continue to maximize the amount of respirators we can produce on behalf of U.S. healthcare workers, as we have every single day since this crisis began.


Did hyperbole rule the day or did 3M deliver a persuasive argument with both intellectual and emotional touch points? I’d say the latter.

You can sense the company striving to keep its emotion in check with the opening line:

“Over the last several weeks and months, 3M and its employees have gone above and beyond to manufacture as many N95 respirators as possible for the U.S. market.”

By depending on facts and logic for the foundation, 3M “earns” the right to share a few viewpoints.

The choice of adjectives is also revealing:

  • Global
  • Yesterday’s
  • Our overseas
  • Significant humanitarian
  • Critical
  • Unethical
  • Illegal
  • Every single

3M avoids the trap of boastful adjectives with a couple exceptions.

I believe 3M.

How does the story end?

During a White House briefing on Monday, President Trump said: “The 3M saga ends very happily. We’re very proud now to be dealing with 3M.”

I suspect 3M and its CEO don’t exactly see it this way.

Sidenote: For more on this topic, check out “Using Owned Media as a Catapult to Fling Warning Shots.”




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