When Bad Things Happen to a Good Company

Crisis communicators are pitching themselves as commentators today due to the big news from Japan. Toyota, one the world’s largest brands, is suffering its first big PR crisis all due to mangled communications. By issuing a recall on two-thirds of their inventory on the road without clearly informing their employees of talking points and the resolution process, Toyota has badly bruised their reputation.

The issue began last fall after an accident involving a sticky gas pedal killed a carload of passengers. Why didn’t they act sooner to solve the problem and then use transparent communications with employees and customers? It’s anyone’s guess.

The current crisis for this company will cost them in the hundreds of millions of dollars and that’s not to mention the loss in reputation. This has left sales teams scratching their heads, angry customers and embarrassed Toyota executives. There is one place that we know consumers are looking for information – the Toyota website. According to Alexa.com, traffic to the Toyota.com site has increased 20% in one day. Just three month ago it was down 3%.

The lesson in this?
• Solve problems as they happen
• Be transparent
• Coordinate both internal and external communications
• Pay close attention to your website information – it’s the front door to the company
It may cost money to recall product, but reviving a brand is just as costly


Unbreakable? Perhaps Not....

A friend of mine on Facebook posted this video and I couldn’t help but comment on the lesson that it provides for every organization promoting a product or service. In the video, a BBC reporter has stopped by a booth at CES 2010 to test a phone that is termed “unbreakable” by the CEO he’s interviewing. Gulp. Needless to say, the reporter does break the phone much to the chagrin of an embarrassed executive. Back to the drawing board for marketing wordsmiths at Company X! It’s a good lesson for all of us who are responsible for crafting messages. If I had to create a highway sign out of this it would read: Alert! Superlatives and adjectives can kill the best of plans. Use judiciously and at your own risk.