Crisis PR: How Volkswagen Might Rebuild


To say Volkswagen is in deep trouble over their recent fuel emissions scandal puts it mildly. The initial claim of 1.8 million cars affected jumped to 11 million. Their entire business suffered their biggest hit ever, and the brand itself is at stake.

A severe blow brought on internally, yes. But some say it creates an opportunity for a comeback, rebound, and to rebuild itself by going green. Although stocks plunged, investors and consumers have lost trust, and class action suits are brewing. The crisis mechanism of PR has gone full-throttle and needs to stay that way.

The PR firms hired by VW to handle this crisis are the German firm of Hering Schuppener as lead PR counsel, from London, Finsbury PR and handling North America, Kekst PR and Edelman.

From the PR perspective, Volkswagen did the only right thing by immediately apologizing for their actions. But there is much more campaigning necessary. For instance, this was an internal illegal rigging of emissions. And the same employees creating the test also approved the test for the emissions. A campaign could be launched for greater diversification in internal oversight, something many automotive companies do already. Add to this putting in place a process for greener manufacturing.


Additionally, before this scandal, VW won awards as a leading green automotive company. With the current carbon emissions scandal, putting efforts toward cleaner production could move VW toward rebranding the company again as a top green automotive company.

But, given the size of the damage to VW’s reputation and business future, no doubt PR firms need to do more. VW could sponsor online classes about the effects of greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions. It could buy up older, less fuel efficient cars in exchange for a low price on 50-miles-per-gallon clean diesel vehicles. There are other corporate socially responsible activities they could add, such as cleaning up toxic waste sites.

On a broader scale, to overcome this negative blow, a series of educational seminars on corporate responsibility at universities covering some of the very issues causing this scandal could be given and sponsored by VW.

These types of public interest actions in facing up to their mistakes and repairing them offer the only way VW can rebuild its reputation and the trust of its consumers and investors. Their four hired PR firms will be at the forefront of their professional campaigns to rebuild VW from its crisis, even if from its own making.

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