Akio Toyoda is known for his intercultural awkwardness, and in preparation for next Wednesday”s congressional appearance, will be undergoing a series of intense preparation sessions, including a mock questioning in English to assess his comprehension. This is Toyota”s chance to augment what many perceive to be a major public relations flop in the wake of Toyota”s disastrous recalls. Toyoda has been criticized for his sluggish response to the crisis facing the company.
On the type of questioning Toyoda will be facing, Deborah Hayden of Kreab Gavin Anderson, a communications consultancy in Japan said the following: “They’ve got to be very careful. They’ve got to be very factual. The statements can’t be bland generalizations, they must be easily supported by facts — they’ll have a lot of lawyers looking at what he says.”
There is a strong need for Toyoda to speak honestly and sincerely, but he must be sure to balance this against risks incurred from taking legal responsibility. While PR consultants have advised that Toyoda communicate in Japanese, the decision has yet to be made. Toyoda is known to struggle when it comes to commenting in English.
Toyoda also came under fire in Japan for his body language; he bowed at the wrong angle, and some consultants are worried that he may have the same problem here with regard to eye contact. There is much for Toyoda to bear in mind and struggling with proper English grammar and enunciation in front of congress may be too much for him to handle at the moment.
-By: Stephen Calogera