Case Study: Crisis Communications for Major Auto Recall

A major US automaker launched a safety recall of several older model vehicles that allegedly caused serious injuries and fatalities in two countries. Facing congressional hearings, regulatory review, and coverage by regional, national, and international media, the company needed strategic guidance and hands-on coordination.

Actions for Success

  • Quickly assessed the issues and the political environment to advise the CEO, Board, and Vice President of Public Policy on next steps and potential outcomes.
  • Produced strategic messaging to inform the public and stakeholders of everything the client was doing to ensure customer safety and understand how the problem happened. ​ · Created and led a crisis communications war room, including members of the client’s employee and consultant teams, to quickly and effectively understand breaking issues and shape client’s response within the messaging framework.
  • Worked with teams throughout clients organization including legal, engineering, marketing, and government relations/public affairs to create consistent and approved materials supporting media, government, and consumer outreach initiatives.
  • Provided strategy and logistics for major announcements related to an internal review and the launch of a consumer compensation program.
  • Worked with government relations/public affairs team to prepare the CEO and General Counsel for legislative hearings.

After the Crisis

  • Through four months of intense work and outreach, the CEO and their team are now viewed as taking positive steps to improve the company’s safety record and move beyond the recall. ​
  • The client is currently working with the Jeff Eller Group to create a strategy to organize and engage the public policy team to handle continuing outreach and future issues.

Outcome

Crisis strategy and coordination lead to a reputation recovery opportunity for the automaker.