Toyota’s Troubles Run Deeper Than PR

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

  • Jane Wood

    I am currently working toward my undergraduate degree in Public Relations and in every single journalism or PR class I have taken thus far the importance of having a reliable reputation has been stressed. I am wondering and more-so hoping that these are characteristics that are also stressed within most any major area of study. I understand that Toyota’s apologies to the public will only get them so far. Toyota is going to have to work harder now than ever to keep that committed fan base they had before, and may have lost that portion of the public that was undecided. I agree that simply putting out advertisements telling the public that their cars are now improved will no longer be enough for this company. But, I also believe that good PR can and should play a big role in informing the public about these changes. Toyota can change its goals and values to ensure something like this does not happen again and I definitely believe that they need to so. Good PR is then going to be vital in getting these changes made aware of by the public. Good PR is how Toyota will be able to regain it’s once positive reputation and rebuild trust in their company. I am glad to see that corporate social responsibility is something that the PR world recognizes as being tremendously important and I am hoping that major companies like Toyota, or even those not facing such crises, recognize this as well. Not only does this build a good reputation and reliability in particular organizations, but companies focusing on being socially responsible will reflect well on the business-world as a whole.