To travel the same road, first get on the same page

This week, I shared some of the thinking behind Toyota's corporate reputation initiative, including the importance of storytelling. The third plank of this effort is integration, or bringing it all together across communication, marketing, and CSR.

This week, I shared some of the thinking behind Toyota's corporate reputation initiative, including the importance of storytelling. The third plank of this effort is integration, or bringing it all together across communication, marketing, and CSR.

Toyota is the world's biggest automaker. Our footprint in North America includes 14 plants and more than 40,000 dedicated men and women, as well as over 1.8 million vehicles produced annually and philanthropic commitments totaling over $700 million. Aligning those individuals, teams, and activities is, as you can imagine, as challenging as it is imperative to success.

 Integration — parts working well together — is a good description of what makes a 21st century automobile hum. It's the same story with brand building. Historically, paid media, marketing and promotion, communications, and philanthropy operated quite separately. Today, however, due in large part to the influence of social and digital media, we've seen the lines between these disciplines blur. Our customers, partners, and stakeholders don't see us as separate groups — but as one single brand. If we operate as One Toyota, stronger results will follow.

This isn't just about telling a unified story, however, as crucial as that is. Integration is also about allocating our collective resources — people, time, and money — in ways that will generate improved ROI. 

Integration work starts with taking a long look in the mirror. Our reflection revealed, for instance, that Toyota participates in a whopping 500-plus events each year, just in the US. It also underscored all the good work we're doing in communities around the nation on important issues, such as traffic safety, innovation, diversity, and the environment. The questions for us, and for companies like ours, are: How do we identify and rally around the most important of these? How do we elevate our activities to tell a clearer and more impactful story? How do we engage with our partners in a more unified, mutually beneficial manner?

The goal for our corporate-wide integration, simply, is to establish a new way of working. The trick is turning integration into what we do naturally every day, rather than another stand-alone initiative. To this end, my team and I are working hand-in-hand with our colleagues across Toyota's CSR and marketing divisions.

You can see our integration work in action through TeenDrive365, a comprehensive company platform and our largest teen driver-safety effort to date. Toyota has a long history of commitment to teen safety, through many separate programs including: our Toyota Teen Driver partnership with Discovery Education, Toyota Driving Expectations, data from our collaborative safety research center, and partnerships with organizations like DoSomething.org. For the first time, we pulled all of this together – supported by marketing, communications, and social media muscle — for significantly amplified impact.

Toyota's tagline is “let's go places.” And, we are embracing that sentiment internally, as well, because it's much better when all of us go places together.

Julie Hamp is CCO at Toyota Motor North America.

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