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Posts Tagged ‘David Gilbert’

Report: Toyota Prepped PR Plan To Discredit Witnesses During Recall

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Given the company’s public statements at the time, it’s not surprising that Toyota had developed a PR program to discredit two major witnesses in relation to the automaker’s massive recall earlier this year: Sean Kane, a Massachusetts safety consultant, and David Gilbert, an auto technology professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Gilbert appeared in an ABC News segment that was key in making the “unintended acceleration” issue, and subsequent recalls a national story.

Toyota at the time asked ABC News for a retraction and apology for the story, in which they said reporter Brian Ross, “singularly failed in his basic duty as a journalist to disclose material information about Professor Gilbert that would have directly influenced his credibility with the audience.”

According to The Washington Post:

Toyota received advice about how to respond to Kane and Gilbert from [President Obama's Chief Pollster Joel] Benenson and New York public relations firm Robinson, Lerer & Montgomery. The documents show that Benenson’s firm, Benenson Strategy Group, has conducted 25 surveys about Toyota’s reputation since December 2009.

RELATED: What Recall? Toyota Posts $1.2 Billion First Quarter Profit

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Is It Wise For Toyota PR To Attack ABC News Segment?

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As TVNewser reports, Toyota yesterday launched a PR blitz aimed squarely at ABC News.

“ABC News and investigative reporter Brian Ross have been delivering the most prominent television reports on Toyota’s recent electronic acceleration system issues,” writes TVNewser’s Kevin Allocca.

Toyota issued a press release titled, “Comprehensive Analysis Raises Concerns About Gilbert Congressional Testimony, ABC News Segment.”

Professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University appeared in the ABC News segment on Feb. 22 that led to widespread awareness of issues with Toyota cars.

In addition, the company held a news conference at their Torrance, Calif., U.S. headquarters, where company officials, an independent consultant and a Stanford University engineer analyzed Gilbert’s experiment and concluded: “No way, no how could this happen in the real world on its own,” reports The Washington Post.

We asked several crisis PR professionals what they thought of the strategy.

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