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Business columns: Live by PR, die by PR

The Toyota debacle should be a cautionary tale for PR-conscious executives, said Nick Morgan in Forbes.com.

Nick MorganForbes.com

For most business executives, public relations is “a matter of keeping score,” said Nick Morgan. Businesses gain points when the press mentions them favorably, and they lose points with every unfavorable mention. To understand the flaws in that mind-set, consider Toyota.

For years, the carmaker enjoyed some of the best coverage imaginable, with article after article extolling the quality of its cars. After its recent run of bad press, Toyota tried to “even the score” with advertising, safety demonstrations, good deals for loyal customers, and public apologies. But its reputation is still in ruins. That’s because the public, unlike executives, doesn’t keep score. Instead, people form a narrative about a company that they change only reluctantly, even when new information contradicts it. That’s Toyota’s dilemma today. Its well-documented safety problems have indeed changed the narrative about the company, perhaps forever.

The Toyota debacle should be a cautionary tale for PR-conscious executives. “Once these counter-narratives get lodged in our distracted minds, they are incredibly durable.”

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