An article in Newsweek entitled ‘Toyota’s Digital Disaster: In the Google era, how do you manage a product recall and a public-relations fiasco? Don’t do what Toyota’s done’ provides an interesting insight into how easy it is to have a public-relations disaster on your hands if you do not truly understand and appreciate how social media works.
As the Newsweek article notes, Googling ‘Toyota’ this week, in the aftermath of the recent Prius fiasco, you get a single link to Toyota and dozens of results about the recent problems with the Prius and various lawsuits against Toyota, including questionable Twitter and blog entries that are more often than not do not paint Toyota in a good light.
So what did Toyota do wrong? Well, in the circumstances just about everything (initially). They were incredibly slow off the mark in responding to this major corporate problem. Toyota needed to be on the front-foot, its top executives should have been the face of the company from day one, dealing with the media, providing clear and up-to-date information via available media resources, including social media.
Would this have prevented negative publicity/comments in the (social) media about Toyota? Of course not. But at least the ratio of ‘bad’ to ‘good’ Toyota stories would have been far more balanced, and you would not find such one-sided and unfavourable Google search results towards Toyota if there were more stories generated by Toyota itself on the issue.
The current Toyota saga will certainly provide a great case study for other organisations on how to manage their own (social) media exposure in the age of Twitter, Facebook and the like, should there be a major product failure of their own in the future.