While at the venerable National Press Club in DC yesterday, handing out our 2010 CSR Awards, I couldn’t help notice another PR event being played out two meeting rooms over—and it didn’t involve happy executives receiving kudos for their good work. No, the Press Club had the Congressional hearings on Toyota playing on the big-screen TV. I noticed quite a few people settled in to watch the train wreck. And what a wreck was. Amid Akio Toyoda’s apologies and the grilling of transportation secretary Ray LaHood, I couldn’t help thinking that Toyota’s problems run much deeper than a crisis PR strategy, especially when Toyoda admitted that the company had grown too big, too fast. Nope, what Toyota really needs is a culture change, one that puts values and transparency first; something that the CSR Awards keynoter, Kevin Moss of BT, stressed in his speech to CSR executives two doors down. More apologies or new TV ads for the Siena can’t deflect these trust and reputation problems. It’s time for Toyota to do some heavy lifting.
–Scott Van Camp