Gini Dietrich

Toyota Recall: A PR Crisis?

By: Gini Dietrich | February 7, 2010 | 
20

Toyota Apologizes

Throughout my career, I’ve had opportunity to work on some pretty big crisis. My stance has always been, if a crisis develops from a PR perspective, someone should get fired (think Tiger Woods). Either the PR firm for not counseling correctly or the client for not listening. And you’d be surprised how often the client doesn’t listen.

Take Bridgestone/Firestone, for instance. I remember sitting in the board room, as a really young account executive, listening to my boss and our general manager, discuss the situation with the client. They refused to listen. They wanted to bury their heads in the sand. We ended up firing them. And we all know what happened to that company. Not to say our firing them was the result of that business entity ceasing to exist, but PR can effectively manage a situation to avoid bankruptcy.

There are a lot of opinions about what happens to Toyota after this recall, but I think they’re doing exactly what they should be doing to keep from going out of business.

The things they’ve done really right:

* Recalling nearly eight million cars (a cost of $54 million a day, in order to be sure their customers are safe).

* Hiring a PR firm, Robinson Lerer & Montgomery, who they seemingly are listening to and the PR firm seems to be offering very sound advice.

* Pulling their ads, according to the Wall Street Journal.

* Acting quickly and responsibly.

* Taking aggressive action with its customers, including multiple voices from their top executives.

* Using social media by allowing consumers access to the U.S. CEO, Jim Lentz, through Digg. You can ask questions and vote on those needed to be answered. As of this writing, there are nearly 1,100 questions on the site.

The naysayers say they haven’t acted quickly or responsibly, but if you read the account of events on Motor Trend, you’ll see they’ve done exactly as they should, starting with a recall of their floor mats (which they thought were the problem) last fall after the first fatal accident.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me?

* Photo courtesy of BBC News

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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20 Comments on "Toyota Recall: A PR Crisis?"

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Brigitte
6 years 4 months ago

I think they’re doing a great job. Proof: I bought a Toyota Matrix last week. It’s used, so it isn’t affected by these recent problems. Toyota is known for quality, and that isn’t going to change.

adam-throwing quarters
6 years 4 months ago
I think Toyota sat back and let their brand work itself. They recalled floor mats first. Of course it couldn’t be something larger, we are Toyota. I think because they had such a good history with quality, it turned into better sales. With better sales is increased velocity. with increased velocity you have to get more parts faster. with speed comes waste. in the end, i think Toyota took their eyes off the quality in their products. Almost every vehicle from 2000-present is involved with this recall. This is HUGE and I think a parts buyer is going to pay… Read more »
trackback
6 years 4 months ago

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This post was mentioned on Twitter by ginidietrich: Toyota Recall: A PR Crisis? http://ff.im/-fz9Go

Abbie S. Fink
6 years 4 months ago
Like you, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with crisis situations. It is never easy-as much as you have planned for it, discussed different scenarios, when something actually happens it is gut-instinct that takes over. It is difficult, no doubt, but keep in mind, if you have engaged outside public relations help, listen to them. They have an outsider’s view of what is happening, they are less emotionally connected to the situation and can provide objective opinions. Ultimately it will be up to the company to decide — but in my case, my clients have listened and we have… Read more »
Jack Monson
6 years 4 months ago

I don’t see this as a “PR Crisis”, but a company crisis for which there is a tremendous opportunity for PR to help or save a brand.

I completely agree with Adam – Toyota has rested on a good reputation for far too long. Their products have been overrated in recents years (nice work marketing folks!). Now it will be the PR team’s job to educate consumers on why we should trust them again. A huge task, but surely one they can accomplish.

Dave Van de Walle
6 years 4 months ago

This is a complex situation that, IMHO, has been exacerbated by some laissez-faire philosophies on the part of Toyota.

Sure, they’ve done some social stuff right but, to Jack’s point above, company crisis with PR opportunities…

In my driveway, I have a Hyundai and a Ford. One company has successfully positioned itself as a tremendous value and the other as a social, innovative company. Toyota could be both, but needs to fix the biz issues first.

Kris Schindler
6 years 4 months ago

Sometimes things happen– things that aren’t so very good. I think how one responds to crisis, hardship, damage, etc… is a true test and reflection of character. I own a Toyota now and would not hesitate to buy another.

Do you still go to “that” restaurant? Even after the one time the food came out cold? Or the one time they charged you twice for a glass of wine? Or the one time you got wretched sick after eating undercooked fish that you noticed when you cut into but didn’t send back?

Anne Buchanan
6 years 4 months ago
I have had a lot of conversations recently with communications folks and businesspeople about how Toyota is responding to this crisis. Like you, I am a veteran of a number of high-profile crises. I’ve made the comment to many that I can just imagine what it must be like for the PR team working on this. It is hard to know what to do when the situation (what is the exact problem? what is causing it? what is the proper remedy) — at least until recently — has been so fluid and evolving. Nothing is harder than determining what to… Read more »
Troy Costlow
6 years 4 months ago
Toyota’s done well so far, but they need to go further, for a very simple reason: People spend ludicrous amounts of time purchasing a car – second only to buying a house. They weigh the pro’s & cons for ages, test drive several models, wait until the opportune moment to buy, etc. It takes forever, and it’s a very engaging process. Cars ultimately define who we are – a Prius driver is a very different person than an H2 driver. So when people buy their next car, they’ll always remember this & weigh it heavily in their decision. “Can I… Read more »
Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich
6 years 4 months ago
Adam – GREAT points (I think they’re up to 454 million cars recalled, as of this morning), but this isn’t a PR issue, it’s an operations and quality service issue. Those two things PR can’t affect. What it can affect is public perception of how the crisis is being handled…which I think is being handled correctly. Jack – Point well taken – this is a company issue, not a PR issue. Kris – I agree with you…it’s in how the company handles it. I don’t know how many times the Toyota CEO has apologized, but he did again this morning.… Read more »
Diane Sager
6 years 4 months ago
Hi Gini: I think in the beginning they did OK responding. The US president made his media rounds, they were open and honest and they acted quickly with each issue. However, when the Lexus Hybrid and then Prius recalls began rolling out, I started to change my mind of the handling of this by Toyota, and it was because of the response time by the head of Toyota Motor Corp., Pres. Akio Toyoda. I didn’t hear him come out and respond until after 4,5,6 (I lost count) recalls. And when he did finally make a statement, he didn’t really say… Read more »
Mary Deming Barber
6 years 4 months ago
I think they did a good job in the beginning of what I saw of the crisis. However, I became concerned when the stories surfaced about how long they have known about problems and the additional makes/models that are involved. It caused me to wonder about even their initial response which no longer seems customer focused. They seem to have responded quickly once “we” found out about the problem but I think there’s some serious long-term damage to the band position overall because of the time it took for them to acknowledge the problem in the first place. They still… Read more »
conniehannon
conniehannon
6 years 4 months ago
I think Toyota has done a good job PR wise with the information the company supplied to their PR firm. I believe Toyota didn’t get to the heart of the matter – the crux of the brake problem – as quickly as they should have. At first they blamed the floor mats (an easy fix). Then they blamed an American company, CTS Corporation of Elkhart Indiana who made some of the brake pedals – and shipped a shim to slip in the brake so it won’t stick in some of its models. And, it turns out a software problem with… Read more »
Dan Wallace
6 years 4 months ago
Gini – Hesitant as I am to disagree with you, I actually do disagree in this case. Three points: 1) You learn a lot about someone during a crisis (think “George Bush, Katrina). This is not at all like the J&J Tylenol case, nor is Toyota’s response equivalent to J&J’s. In that instance, an unkown third party tampered with the product. It was not self-inflicted damage. Despite the fact that it quickly became clear that it wasn’t J&J’s fault, they IMMEDIATELY pulled 100% of product of the shelves (and destroyed it if I’m not mistaken). The ethos at J&J was… Read more »
MikeHussey
5 years 1 month ago

The recall happens in the period of journey of a company. Toyota knows for the quality it delivers and this thind done is good acoording to me.

<a href=”http://www.indiandrives.com”>New cars in India</a>

MikeHussey
5 years 1 month ago

The recall happens in the period of journey of a company. Toyota knows for the quality it delivers and this thind done is good acoording to me.

Toyota Parts
Toyota Parts
4 years 10 months ago

Well, it’s not that surprising to hear that. It started with the prius a couple of years ago and many of their cars have noted several incidents such as the brake pedals and the transmission, causing their sales to decreased by almost half this year…on the other hand, Toyota parts still remain on their position as they’re today….

riinfo
riinfo
4 years 9 months ago

Simultaneously it will makes a long section in it

riinfo
riinfo
4 years 9 months ago

IT will grow simultaneously with the journey of company..

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riinfo
riinfo
4 years 9 months ago

IT will grow simultaneously with the journey of company..

http://www.riinfotech.com/ecommerce.php

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