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Two ways of addressing a PR crisis

Perhaps you remember Toyota’s crisis over defective accelerator pedals last February. The Japanese car manufacturer had to recall thousands of cars to rectify the problem. Here are two statements from Toyota in Britain that showed completely different approaches to the situation.

The statements were published in The Times of London on February 4, 2010.

A Toyota UK spokesman said: “No action is required by Toyota drivers unless they have experienced this problem, in which case we advise them to contact their local Toyota Centre. Only a tiny percentage of cars are affected, so it is highly unlikely that drivers will experience the problem.”

This is a straightforward statement that makes it clear that only a few drivers, if any, may be faced with the accelerator pedal problem, in which case they are advised to contact their local Toyota Centre. Crucially, the spokesman used the word “problem” rather than “issue”, which is newspeak. My blog entry from yesterday refers.

However, a Toyota UK director said: “The potential issue only occurs in very rare circumstances … At Toyota, we’ve built our reputation on quality, durability and reliability and trust. We want to rebuild that trust by effectively working through this issue.”

I am intrigued by the sentence: “The potential issue only occurs in very rare circumstances.”

So we’re looking at something that might potentially happen and, by the way, it only occurs in very rare circumstances. It left me confused. And then follows the usual marketing blurb. Also, this gentleman prefers to call what clearly is a problem an issue, which is a way to make it sound less negative.

Who would you trust? I’d go for the spokesman, but his good work is undone by the director’s circumspect statement.

I welcome your comments.

Rolf Soderlind

http://www.absolutwriting.com/ absolutwriting

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One comment on “Two ways of addressing a PR crisis

  1. This is a great illustration of why it pays to be consistent. That mess-up cost Toyota millions of dollars.

    Tom

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