TEXT OF STORY
Bill Radke: The CEO of Toyota testifies to Congress this week about the company’s many vehicle recalls, and now he’s got an extra PR problem. Newly released documents show Toyota officials bragging about how they saved $100 million by getting the government to agree to only a limited floor mat recall. Marketplace’s Alisa Roth asked some public relations experts how Akio Toyoda should handle the grilling he will get from Congress.
Alisa Roth: Congress says these hearings are about gathering facts. Eric Dezenhall sees it differently:
Eric Dezenhall: It is basically about scolding.
He runs a crisis management firm in Washington, and part of his job is coaching people to testify before Congress.
Dezenhall: And what your executive who sits there more than anything else, he has to learn to take a beating.
But in the process, he does have to answer a few questions nicely, apologize, and try not to incriminate himself or the company.
Gene Grabowski works in the crisis and litigation practice at Levick Strategic Communications. He says Toyoda should answer honestly.
Gene Grabowski: On the other hand, you don’t discuss every problem and every issue. You focus on one or two that are very important and you use those as platforms to talk about what you’re doing to make sure that those problems never arise again.
Language may be a problem. Dezenhall says Toyoda should answer questions in English, with an interpreter standing by. But the most important lesson for Toyoda may be this: a congressional hearing isn’t something you win. If you’re lucky, it’s just an ordeal you survive.
I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.
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