Good grief. Who is in charge of their PR over there? Never mind that their reputation went from 60 to 0 in nothing flat because of their vehicles’ sudden acceleration problem. Now someone at Toyota has decided that the best way to combat the negative PR is to pay a bunch of mommy bloggers to write positive things. Now, to be fair, they aren’t asking them to lie. And there is a push among bloggers to reveal if they’re writing a paid review or not. (It’s called Blog with Integrity, and yes, I’ve signed the pledge.)

But the better way to combat negative publicity is to do something positive as a company. Do lots of positive things and give people a chance to write about that.

This is all part of a growing field of marketing science called “Online Reputation Management,” or “OTR” if you’re collecting marketing acronyms. It’s one of the most important, and most overlooked, tactics a business can employ. And many of the companies who are trying to do it (like Toyota, I assume), are making a mess of it. Stay tuned to our blog. We’re working on some OTR how to’s for you.

In the meantime, read the whole story of Toyota’s botched mommy blogger outreach here. The blogger who wrote this is not a marketer by trade, but she sure writes like she is one. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

UPDATE: The company that contacted the blogger with the offer says they are not affiliated with Toyota, nor did Toyota ask them to do this. They are trying to build a company where stay at home moms can be paid for simple blog posts and I guess they put up their own money and selected Toyota as a test case to build their proof-of-concept. <sigh> OK, so I could write a whole other post on why this was a bad idea, starting with the fact that Toyota might not like it very much. And that there are some other, well-established companies already doing this, such as BlogHer. Not to say you can’t create a competitive venture, just that if you’re going up against a well-funded competitor, you’d better have a strong differentiating proposition, which this company does not seem to have. Also, you might not want to mess up right out the gate with your intended target audience!