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Additional Incentives Would Aid Toyota's Comeback, PR Researcher Says

Written by Dick Jones Communications on 15 February 2010.

A source on the PR nightmare facing Toyota is Renita Coleman, a Johnson Legacy Scholar of the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication.

The Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication is a research center founded in 2004 to study and advance ethics and responsibility in corporate communication and other forms of public communication. Scholars are awarded grants for research on public communication.

Recently, Coleman co-authored a paper about the ethics of PR professionals. Please feel free to use these comments below from Coleman or contact her directly for any follow up questions you might have.

”I think Toyota’s mistake was in not acting faster on the problem,” said Coleman. “There’s not much to be done now except resolve to act quickly on everything and apologize, which they have done. That was a very good move on their part. Unfortunately, every car manufacturer is going to have problems, recalls, etc., and that hurts. They all recover, but there is a very painful short-term loss. They can mitigate some of that by continuing to be transparent, honest, and doing it quickly.”

“I know there is probably a lot of internal conflict going on with the PR people advising the above, and the lawyers telling them not to say anything. I think they could go a long way toward getting their reputation back by offering some above-and-beyond type of incentive for people who are still going to be leery of their cars.

“There will always be people whose fears are irrational and their understanding of risk is skewed, but it doesn’t help to dismiss them publicly. Certainly they should at least give people loaner cars or rentals until the dealer can get around to fixing their car. I don’t know what would be feasible, but I know that when a business does something a little extra for me after a bad experience, I am impressed and a customer for life. From an ethics point of view, I think the best approach is to put themselves in their customers’ shoes and do for their customers what they want done for them. Of course, modestly publicize their good deeds. Toyota makes a great car and they will bounce back. Look at Tylenol.”

Dick Jones Communications helps the Arthur W. Page Center with its public affairs work.