Friday Drop: Bad week for Toyota UK head of PR Scott Brownlee

So, is it just the accelerators? Maybe now the brakes too? And is the sainted Prius now tainted?

Brownlee: Touring the studios
Brownlee: Touring the studios

The  spiral of damaging stories originally related to a fault with accelerators sticking on some Toyota vehicles, and has led to a worldwide recall of a number of models. 

The communications response around the world has varied. In Japan, executive vice president Shinichi Sasaki issued heartfelt apologies but his superior, president Akio Toyoda, handed the German car industry an unexpected fillip by being driving off in a black Audi after giving a very brief public statement.

Meanwhile in the UK, Toyota comms chief Scott Brownlee was given a tough ride on Channel 4 News. Showing contrition but looking under pressure, nervously scratching his neck, he was forced to admit that the company was aware of problems with pedals thirteen months ago, though apparently an issue of ‘smoothness' rather than safety. Brownlee put in a much improved performance on Radio 4's Today programme, though left Evan Davis with work to do, trying to describe a replacement pedal he'd brought along. Putting the brakes on the story is going to be a challenge but the recall has sadly and literally been car crash PR.

Key Lessons:

Speed is of the essence. A slow reaction can have long term reputational consequences

Visibility is key. In difficult times the public expects to see the man or woman in ultimate charge

Body language can cloud the messages you are looking to deliver

Good week for reality star Alex Reid

A life stranger than fiction. That's how Alex Reid must be feeling right now. Who he I hear you ask. He is officially Mr Katie Price (Jordan to you and me) after a tack fest wedding in Vegas, played out in front of a phalanx of snappers and an ITV 2 production team. It's been a busy week for Mr Reid.  Winning Celeb Big Brother marked the start of a move into the public consciousness and not just for being an alleged cross-dressing cage fighter. Cynics cast doubt on the marriage almost immediately following his Big Brother success, even though Jordan's agent sagely pointed out that the marriage went ahead ‘with no media deal in place'. OK featured a Katie Price pre-wedding exclusive on February 2 nd.

Despite the cynics, life must be sweet for the former Hollyoaks actor who will barely have time to give an interview to Hello! as he is off to India to take part in another (yawn) reality show, this time cage fighting for Bravo. So a packed schedule for the burly Reid, re-born thanks to that most mendacious of TV formats.  No doubt his publicist has a number of other projects lined up as he makes the most of his five minutes.  A word of warning comes from the Mirror's Polly Hudson who bleats ‘how could Alex be so stupid?' The Price is always right.

Key Lessons:

In the world of celebrity public perceptions can change quickly

A savvy media strategy can extend your five minutes in the limelight

Harnessing reality TV is a platform for broadening appeal



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