Crisis communications, anyone? Understatement, anybody? I
don’t mean to be flip, but this debacle over at Toyota is really quite
stunning. They had to wait until a heart-wrenching video gone viral to start
apologizing and fixing the problem. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but
with youtube serving as the defacto publicity machine for any number of
companies I’m thinking Toyota should’ve been more prepared.
have no doubt that Toyota’s president and chief operation officer Jim Lentz is
completely genuine in his remarks regarding the company’s goals for safety.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the
vehicles our customers drive . . . We deep regret the concern that our recalls
have caused for our customers and we are doing everything we can —as fast as we
can — to make things right . . . “
I know there’s some litigation in the wings regarding this major recall, but
what about the people who died recently in the crash in California? I guess my
point is this: I get the impression that Toyota or maybe just a few people in
charge of their reputation and image don’t think people listen to tapes of 911
calls or watch in our macabre way a video showing stills of mangled cars
followed by the remarks of law enforcement who clearly allude to the fact that
the driver of that Lexus that couldn’t bring the car to a stop due to the stuck
gas pedal was an experienced driver, a state trooper.
other thing I’ve noticed is that the company’s mea culpa came too late and when
an apology isn’t forthcoming the trust between consumer and product maker
erodes, little by little. And once that trust has been damaged it usually takes
a long time to rebuild. This could be especially true for a company that in the
past was always known for good quality.
messages, after-the-fact apologies, and official statements will never be able
to compete with the real world experience that can be played over and over
again on youtube.com and talked about via Facebook, twitter and other platforms
just ripe for company bashing.