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10 Disastrous PR Moves by Companies

Toyota Steers into the skid
Remember the Disney (DIS) movies featuring Herbie, a sentient Volkswagen Beetle that could start, stop and steer all on his own?

In real life, it is not so much fun when your car seems to have a mind of its own.

Toyota had the misfortune of balancing a growing PR crisis with the legal imperative to cover its bumper. The two didn't mix well.

As Toyota (TM) would learn, silence doesn't work. Nor does blaming the motor skills of drivers when the sheer volume of incidents, some of them fatal, seem to indicate that's not the case.

Are we really, even now, 100% sure what was happening with the sudden acceleration? Although the problem seems solved, many questions remain.

What we do know is that Toyota's public relations response was a textbook case in what not to do when they dodged and denied the problem for months before issuing an apology and potential mechanical fix.

Brian Dobson, a crisis PR expert, says Toyota was "flat-footed" and slow to respond.

"If brand managers don't engage the media from Day One, then crisis reports get driven by critics, competitors and pundits who dominate news with negative comments," he said last year in comments about the issue. "Toyota lost ground trying to minimize its troubles as competitors pounced to capitalize."

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