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Toyota’s Crisis Communication Problem

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Many of you have listened faithfully to Dr. Robert Chandler’s teachings on crisis communication in our Everbridge Expert Insights webinars. We have frequently discussed the fact that even the most effective communication plan can be crippled by rumors and misinformation.

Toyota’s current vehicle recall is demonstrating the importance of some of the very things Dr. Chandler has preached to us all, for example:

  • Honesty is the best policy
  • Information should be timely and relevant
  • Crisis communication is proactive in nature
  • Messages must strive for credibility

Much commentary has been made over Toyota’s reaction to the recall. Can a company (with a pristine reputation) really objectively predict public reaction to bad news? Perhaps cultural aspects played a part in how the crisis was handled and therefore accounted for some of the missteps?

This Newsweek article critiques Toyota’s response and draws an interesting comparison of the impact of today’s information age on a PR crisis versus the time of the Tylenol scare in 1982. An article in Edmunds AutoObserver highlights the mistrust and decreasing confidence that is resulting from Toyota’s mixed messaging. Certainly, this is a difficult situation to handle for any organization in any industry. In this case, communication has a direct impact on sales and consumer confidence.

If any of you have had to weather a PR nightmare, we welcome your comments on effective (or ineffective) crisis communication in this type of situation.