For decades, Toyota has been a standard-bearer for quality, innovation and commitment to excellence. Now, its reputation stands, if not in ruins, severely damaged. It’s yet another case of horrific communications management (I won’t even call it crisis management because what has been done in the last few months shows a systemic communication problem).
Now, the future of the company depends on if they can learn from their mistakes, move forward, and start to communicate better and more honestly with their audience. Whether you’re in crisis communications or just corporate communications in general, here are a few tips to keep you from veering off the road.
Step 1. Get out in front of any news story. Don’t sit back and let the reporter, the blogger or the private citizen define the story. Figure out the facts, define your message and stay out in front of the story.
Step 2. Tell the truth. This point should be a big duh, but some corporations have real problems with this. They think that they’re above it all and the truth won’t come out. As a former journalist, I can tell you the truth almost always comes out, or worse yet, some part of the truth. Once again, if you control the story, or at least try to be a part of it, you have a better chance at getting your message out.
Step 3. An offshoot of telling the truth is giving people the facts. Your intelligent consumers will make their own decisions. If your facts are strong enough and your product works, you’re in good shape. If it’s not, no amount of PR or buzz or wizardry is going to help things. So give people the facts.
Step 4. Reach out to your audience. Once again, this is PR 101. Try to connect with your audience. Don’t just give them words or lawyer-ized statements. Honest connection with your audience is a great pathway to success.
We’re going to see in the next few months what pathway Toyota decides to take and what its future looks like. In the meantime, one of our coordinators gets in her car every day and wonders how well her Corolla will drive.