Thursday, August 28, 2014

Living in a PR World

This world would be a mess without public relations specialists to clean it up and keep it on the right track. Before attending college, "public relations" was never in my vocabulary. I knew about the finger in the chili bowl at Wendy's but continued to go to Wendy's despite this. I had heard about Toyota's many recalls and that people were not buying that brand of car but I did not know why. These were examples of me becoming familiar with public relations and not even knowing it.

When Wendy's had the finger in their chili incident, they hired a public relations firm who began thinking of ways to fix this horrid reputation that Wendy's would soon be battling. The firm helped dig Wendy's out of this bad public relations hole.

The public relations firm first identified Wendy's problem and then brainstormed with them on how to deal with it. Wendy's problem was that the public was now thinking of them as a gross fast food restaurant because the public was focusing more on the one-time contaminated chili instead of the delicious food that is sold every day. To fix this, the firm handed out free frosty's to hundreds of people at the Wendy's location that this incident occurred. This helped recover a good reputation for Wendy's. This good public relations fix was why I never stopped eating Wendy's, but at the time I did not even know it.

Toyota on the other hand did not handle their crisis as successfully. Their crisis ended up costing people their lives. In one of its Lexus models, the brake would get stuck and the vehicles would continuously accelerate.

Instead of doing a total recall right away, Toyota thought it would be cheaper and easier for them to say that this was because of the floor mat which jammed up under the brakes. They required all Lexus models to get this fixed. Eventually more crashes occurred and Toyota had to do a recall.

This negative reputation that Toyota received (and still holds to some) is because they did not handle their crisis well. Their public relations department did not identify the problem, or fix it, in a successful manner.

After attending college and declaring a public relations major, I discovered why I feel the way I do about some organizations like Wendy's and Toyota. I have also learned that not admitting there is a problem or lying about a crisis is the worst mistake that a person can make in the public relations world.

However, crises are just one aspect of this big public relations world. Public relations has to do with constructing and maintaining a positive and professional reputation whether it be for a person, a place or an organization. A public relations specialist has one of the most important jobs in the world and most people do not even think twice about who they are or what they do.


  1. Alex, funny you mention the finger in the Wendy's chili incident. I haven't thought about that in a very long time! We last talked about it in my Business Law class, and did you know that it was actually staged? The lady who found it in her chili put it there herself! Disgusting, right?
    Anyway, you also mentioned Toyota and their recalls. I also remember that whole fiasco and how awful that situation was. What do you think Toyota could have done differently? You say they didn't handle the crisis well, but I wondered your thoughts on what could they have done specifically to combat this?

  2. Alex, I never thought about how important PR was to a company until reading your post. As a business student, I always try to think of how we keep from making the mistakes. We put a lot of effort into policy, ethics, and management so we don’t have a PR crisis. However, I was glad to read your post and be reminded that our two industries are connected, and we must rely on each other to stay in business.

  3. Kelly, thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes, I knew the whole thing was staged. We actually had a speaker come to one of my public relations classes from Fleishman Hillard and tell us step by step how they handled it. It was such an interesting subject to learn about. I agree - very disgusting!
    As for Toyota, I think that they could have done many things differently to prevent the bad publicity, but the main thing they could have done was tell the truth from the beginning. I wrote an analysis about their crisis and learned from their mistakes. There is no way that they could have stopped the crisis unless they knew about the problem with the brakes before they sold the cars but I do not think that they did. They should have taken quicker and more efficient action when they did finally learn about the problem though.

  4. Meredith, I tremendously appreciate your comment. It is very true, we have to realize how important relationships are between different industries. Thank you for not looking past PR.

  5. Honestly before I declared for public relation courses i had no idea as well. I only knew that it somewhat had to do with marketing. When you brought up the Toyota incident and crisis it definitely shows us how crisis communication must be done effectively and in our field it can make or break the reputation of a company. Knowing what I know now, I have a better understanding of what a PR professional does.

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