Toy Industry Crisis Could Spread To Hit Character Brands, Says Crisis PR Expert Brian Dobson of

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Brian Dobson of , expert in crisis, toy and licensing industry public relations, says owners of hit children's characters should prevent image damage following toy giant Mattel's third recall, noting Congressional hearings and continued developments may move the focus to new areas. Crisis preparedness systems should be in place to identify weaknesses and initiate corrective actions before problems develop.

To protect brand values, owners of popular kids characters should step up crisis control to prevent image damage resulting from the string of toy recalls by industry leader Mattel Inc., said Brian Dobson, whose is expert in crisis, toy and licensing public relations.

Dobson said, "The toy industry crisis has not peaked. It's on the ascent and may move to other categories of product and responsibility. Congressional hearings set to start September 19th may focus awareness and public perceptions to new areas in the children's entertainment and product sectors."

With public attention focused on the toy industry as the holiday selling season is about to start, Dobson said, "Congress will likely be asking tough questions about why toys weren't tested for lead before. The inquiry may also explore what responsibility lies in various sectors of the supply chain, from brand ownership through production to retail sales."

He noted, "Brand managers unprepared for crisis are preparing for failure. The elements of crisis preparedness are similar one industry to the next. Preparing for crisis can help prevent it in some cases and in always helps to manage a crisis more effectively."

Dobson added, "The toy industry crisis has reached a point where character property owners and retailers selling toys are beginning to step in to guard their brands and reputations from damage."

Yesterday, The Walt Disney Company said it will test toys of brands its licenses based on popular characters. Nickelodeon, owner of Dora the Explorer and Diego, also said it will test toys, as did Sesame Workshop. In retail, Wal-Mart has retained testing laboratories to check the quality of toys it sells to shoppers, and Toys "R" Us will also test toys, he noted.

"The toy industry is in new territory and has to act to rebuild confidence. The industry has quickly become identified with lax quality control. Industry leaders, such as the Toy Industry Association, should move toward governing members with respect to product standards," said Dobson.

He added, "Character owners have to guard against negative rub-off of the toy crisis onto the brands they have built to fame through movies, TV, books, videos and other means to gain popularity in the highly competitive kids entertainment market."

The recent toy recalls, involving more than 20 million items from Mattel alone, are primarily due to dangerous leaded paint on toys made in China and shipped to the United States and other markets. Mattel announced three recalls in the past weeks and some companies in the toy, apparel and publishing sectors have also announced similar recalls.

Dobson has managed public relations for mega-hits such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles during the 1990s and this decade's hit Dragon Ball Z anime property, along with promoting such brands as Gumby, Where's Waldo, Balloonatiks and Casper the Ghost. His agency represented Irwin Toy when it was Canada's #1 toy company, Trendmasters and Happiness Express in toys. Dobson has also represented licensing and merchandising companies in the U.S. and Europe. He managed issue and crisis public relations in pharmaceutical, food, consumer product, education, nutrition and other industries.

Dobson's public relations firm, , has managed communications of crises from product recalls to protect tampering to major lawsuits and quality issues to management failures.

Dobson, whose unit also helps build brand identity and training videos, is also expert in entertainment brand building, particularly for the children's entertainment sector. In 2004, he addressed the bi-annual China Culture Forum about what it takes to succeed with entertainment brands in North America or Europe. He stressed attention to quality as vital to success."

Dobson is a former journalist for both Dow Jones and Reuters, where he wrote the stock market commentary, and entered public relations at the New York Stock Exchange before heading public relations at two major corporations, including American Brands, then a Fortune 50, prior to opening his public relations agency.

Dobson Communications, based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and New York City and is online at with its video wing at


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