According to Indian website TopNews, Toyota’s PR department discovered early on that within hours of the historic sales embargo and accompanying recall, following right on the heels of steering, floor mat and gas pedal recalls, social media site twitter was responsible for painting a picture of a crippled giant. Twitter members generated an exponentially catastrophic message rate that at one point measured over 30 new tweets a minute, unleashing a torrent of negative publicity impossible to counter or control.
The metric that emerges as a result? There is no PR antidote that can stop or slow the viral nature of a global, near instantaneous stampede for the exits. In a time of widespread acceptance of crisis management by top corporations, the options for damage control are for significantly reduced, and in Toyota’s case, zero.
In Toyota’s case, where the problems are cumulative, the results in some cases fatal, and a definitive cure nowhere in site, the problem for successfully surviving the fallout becomes even more difficult. Previous worst case crisis’, like the Tylenol poisoning scare in 1982 that generated the template for PR intervention, would probably have been controllable even in today’s unfiltered social media atmosphere by the twin decisions of immediate recall and the suspension of product sales until tamper-proof packaging – and a sure fix – could be instituted.