When Toyota New Zealand was swept up in the global corporate giant's unprecedented vehicle recalls at the end of 2009, it turned to Wright Communications for expert crisis counsel to ensure damage to its trusted brand was minimised. The requirements included high-level strategic advice for senior Toyota managers, and timely, transparent, and effective communication with customers, internal and external stakeholders, and the media.
The Wright approach
Wright Communications devised a multi-prong crisis communications plan, with Toyota New Zealand Chief Executive Alistair Davis as its focal point. This had to get the company's key messages to the crucial audience of customers, dealers, the general public, and other stakeholders. Communication had to be up front and open, and encompass a variety of methods including direct letter, email and phone, and media releases. For the duration of the crisis, which lasted several weeks at its height, Managing Director Nikki Wright was on call for personal counsel. A dedicated Wright team helped Alistair pen an opinion editorial for national distribution, drafted media releases in liaison with Toyota's senior managers, and facilitated a throng of media interviews. The team closely monitored overseas media coverage.
From an interview on TVNZ's breakfast NZI Business to an opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald, Toyota's strong media presence put the recalls in context. Pleasingly, respected independent brand surveys following the main period of recalls showed little effect on Toyota's position as New Zealand's most-trusted car brand. In April, The Independent cited Alistair Davis in a special article on 'Crisis & Recovery' called 'Keeping the wheels on Toyota brand'.