Saturday, 6 February 2010

I drive a Nissan...for now

I just have a few observations on this whole Toyota debacle.

1. It is sometimes the crime of management which leaves the PR team with egg on their faces. As we were reminded in a seminar this week, PR people are not the decision makers in an organisation and often are left out of the decisions and major developments at the senior management or board levels. The question then is, how aware were Toyota's PR people about the shortcomings of the car giant's vehicles, if at all, and how soon were they then roped in to do damage control? It's often as though PR people are like window dressing and not taken seriously until the proverbial crap hits the fan. Eight million recalled cars later, news of not only faulty accelerators but also crappy brakes and the revelation that these flaws were well known by the manufacturer, and suddenly it's all about the PR team - leaping into action to rescue a global brand from near destined collapse; trying to save the company from management's sins, all the while taking the beating on the frontline.

2. Where is the trust? The company admitted that they were aware of the  faulty accelerators, but their issue was not one of safety but rather of a "smooth" ride. Seriously? This is where the concept that PR is all smoke and mirrors comes from - statements like that. So okay, let's say I was dropped on my head as a child and I believed that, then Toyota is still admitting that they put a less than perfect product out on the market for the carpooling mummies, busy, always-on-the-go professionals and teenagers borrowing the car for Saturday nights out with their friends.

3. Walking the talk - Toyota president wants the millions of Toyota owners around the world to believe him when he says his cars are safe and then flips them all the bird when he leaves the press conference via an AUDI! Does this dude have a PR advisor, or on a more basic, common sense level - does this guy have a clue? I mean, even if you really don't drive your own cars, taking one home that day would not have killed you. Oh wait...faulty brakes and accelerators? Okay...maybe it would have.

4. It seems like Toyota is all over the place with the communications strategy - literally and figuratively. The PR teams worldwide are coming out of the woodwork with statements, which vary in delivery and content. From Mr Toyoda aka "I believe in Audi, not my own cars", to Mr Jon "I drive a Toyota. My family and friends drive Toyotas, and I would not allow my loved ones to drive our cars if I did not believe they were safe" Williams, the commercial director in the UK. It's a virtual pelau of messages coming out of Camp Save Toyota, from PR people, non-PR people, Audi lovers, and it does nothing to build confidence among their customers and stakeholders. It's as though everyone is being given a chance to see if they can do better than the first guy to make amends.

I would hope if Nissan ever screws up, they would be a bit more honest in their communication, more proactive and ultimately less reactive, genuinely remorseful and not boldly put their execs in a BMW after the press conference.


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