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Wake Up Calls for Toyota Nightmare

Recalls, apologies, secrets in the hallways. Toyota’s problems are too many to count at this point. But the advice keeps rolling in. Here’s the last of the responses I received from some PR pros across the country. Thanks again to all who answered my Profnet query earlier this week: “Please give me your best piece of advice for Toyota (one line, if possible) in terms of this most recent publicity nightmare.” Here we go:

“Give those Toyota owners affected by the recall or alert free car rental privileges until problem rectified. It won’t cost more than non returning customers or fatal PR disaster.”
–Arlene Howard, Arlene Howard Public Relations

 “Crisis Management at its best–Toyota is screaming from the roof tops that they made a mistake and are now proactively spending boatloads of money to keep their customers and brand safe.”
— David Eichler, co-founder and creative director of David and Sam PR

“My advice to Toyota is to offer a clear Mea Culpa with pointers to a Web site offering complete explanations on a host of related issues, including how the problem happened and the fix.  Finish this off by talking about the company’s commitment to American jobs and a prosperous future.”
–Mark Tardif, Associate Director of College Communications, Unity College

“The damage is done. Get out in FRONT of your story. Instead of steering the story, Toyota is just reacting wildly like their cars.”
— Amy Power, President, Power Public Relations, LLC

“A big first step for Toyota would be to offer significant extended warranties to any and all Toyota owners affected by the recall.  Yes, this is very costly strategy for Toyota, but the brand has to showcase the main reason car owners purchased Toyota: quality.  That message of quality (via service for existing car owners) is a simple and dramatic offering, since every car owners can associate with the high costs of car maintenance, particularly on cars that are out of warranty.  Extending warranties also allows Toyota to maintain a dialogue and rebuild relationships and brand equity with existing customers, rather than watching them ditch their Toyota for another make and model.  Otherwise, they’re largely reliant on some ad or marketing effort, speaking to ‘lost consumers’ who may or may not come back.”
–Arthur Gallego, Gallego&Co. Brand Communications

“Toyota executives waited too long to respond and now things are out of control.  In light of all the recent falls of top executives and consumers already leery of corporate America, Toyota needs to get ‘on the ground’ of their dealerships.  Get to the consumers directly and put their minds at ease that they actually care.  I have personally spoken with Toyota car owners about this and they are now not considering buying another Toyota because of the disloyalty to the customer. Toyota needs to be extremely proactive at this point and offer free oil changes or something drastic to save their tail.  Making last minute corporate press conferences is not the solution!”
–Scott Spiewak, CEO, Fresh Impact PR Group

“Set aside Japanese cultural and communications expectations and stop hiding from the truth. Deal with the American public and Toyota consumers the way they demand: quickly, honestly, candidly and demonstrating compassion and concern for a problem that is top priority for Toyota and sincerely promise it will be fixed as rapidly as possible. Then continue updating the progress and results regularly. Transparency and accountability, not hiding will restore consumer confidence.”
–Agnes Huff, PhD, President & CEO,
Agnes Huff Communications Group, LLC

“The behavior/actions of a company and its communications are inextricably linked in a crisis. In other words, if Toyota makes poor decisions in resolving the problem the most brilliant PR work won’t make any difference. It will still be a PR nightmare.”
–Lou Hoffman, CEO, The Hoffman Agency Leslie Levine