When your brand faces a torrent of constant criticism like Toyota, the go-to PR tactic is to respond with positive messaging, namely in the form of ads – that’s the platform that gives you supreme control over the message and narrative.
But please – when considering such an approach, you must avoid over-the-top, absurd spin.
You may have seen Toyota’s recent commercials about how they’re spending $1 million an hour on improving their fleet’s safety. As the New York Times points out, that adds up to nearly $9 billion a year.
Now that seems like quite a bit of loose change to spend exclusively on safety improvements, but as the Times explains, the devil’s in the video details. The actual script of the ad says that “at Toyota, we care about your safety. That’s why we’re investing one million dollars every hour to improve our technology and your safety.”
That last sentence, if diced carefully, says that the money is being spent on technology improvement alone. Yet during that specific narration, the words “INVESTING IN YOUR SAFETY” float on the screen (yes, the words are in all-caps in the commercial).
Nice subliminal trick Toyota, but when mainstream outlets devote their time to parsing the meaning behind your ads – and potential duplicity – all your company does is fuel the lingering mistrust on your brand’s safety record. Not the wisest PR tactic we’ve seen.