CYPRESS, CA: Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America had a full-scale PR
response ready last week when Consumers Union (CU) announced it had
found safety problems with the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited SUV.
Given advance notice of the CU report, Mitsubishi worked with PR firm
Fleishman-Hillard to prepare b-roll footage of tests it performed to
show that the vehicle was safe; issued a statement from its president
and COO Pierre Gagnon; and held a press conference featuring Gagnon on
the same day that CU publicly announced its findings.
Key Mitsubishi message points included attacking the validity of CU
testing and stressing that the company and government regulators had no
reports of problems with Monteros on the road today.
The automaker's next PR moves will include contacting customers to
assure them the vehicle is safe and reaching out to key audiences such
Fleishman again finds itself in an auto crisis. It was hired by
Bridgestone/Firestone last year just before the controversy involving
Ford and Firestone erupted.
Fleishman eventually dropped the tire maker, unhappy with its
unwillingness to mount an active PR response. This time, observers said,
Fleishman has a client much more willing to respond to charges.
"They did all they could," said Bill Patterson of Reputation Management
Associates in Columbus, OH, speaking of Mitsubishi's efforts.
CU, handling PR in-house, held its own press conference last Wednesday
following Mitsubishi's press conference to address the company's
CU had used James E. Arnold, a management consulting firm that
specializes in communications issues, to review its PR operations prior
to the Mitsubishi announcement, said Linda Wagner, senior director in
CU's office of public information. It also used Middleberg Euro RSCG to
compile a media list.
CU had six staffers handling media calls after its announcement.