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September 29, 2015
VW’s Pothole-Strewn Detour — Stronger at the End?
 
We’ve touched on the Volkswagen situation before, but it’s appropriate to turn to three crisis communication experts, as mustered by The Wall Street Journal, on where the company stands in seeking to return from a diesel-powered detour. Follow its moves as a highly visible exercise in crisis response.

“Moving forward,” says crisis communications consultant Andrew Hennigan, “Volkswagen has a very difficult challenge restoring trust. It will have to combine robust corrective actions with increased transparency, building a new culture based on uncompromising integrity. This will take a long time but the company could even merger stronger at the end.”

"Volkswagen put itself in a deep hole," notes USC Marshall School of Business marketing professor Ira Kalb, "To get out of it, Müller and his team need to right the wrong by engineering and retrofitting a device that brings emissions to standard on diesel vehicles and propose a believable solution so this won't happen again."

And Jennifer Vickery, CEO of National Strategies Public Relations, feels that  “To really fix things, the company is going to have to communicate in a new way. It should break things down, step-by-step, in terms of where they are in the investigation and correction of all internal corruption. It must be as public as possible, even using social media and media airtime purchases, to reach the public."  

Clearly, VW has blundered into a heck of a way to strengthen itself — at a cost of billions and a glaring public spotlight. Yet those are the consequences of accountability in a situation as heedless of public trust as this one has been.

Photo: Associated Press

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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