Volkswagen’s Four PR Firms & Their Ongoing Crisis


The latest emission scandal by Volkswagen severely crippled the company’s growth, shaken the trust of investors, consumers, and, as this article posits, leaves the entire brand of Volkswagen threatened. These are dark days for the company but also a opportunity for to rebrand the company with a new green initiative and more corporate oversight.

Four PR firms have been retained to work on the project – led by German firm Hering Schuppener as lead PR counsel, with Finsbury in London and Kekst & Edelman handling North America.

The Scandal

Last month Volkswagen admitted to rigging 1.8 commercial vehicles with software that cheated the emissions testing. That number increased to 11 million, resulting in the resigning of Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, and tumbling stock prices. The most important long-term result, however, tarnishes one of the most successful automotive marketing campaigns of the last 50 years.

Volkswagen scandal

Recovery and Going Green

Volkswagen’s PR did the right thing by immediately apologizing, promising to regain public trust, but the company could foster more out-of-the-box campaigning to creatively make up lost ground. Volkswagen could move forward with a new campaign promoting more oversight into every part of the process and then plan for future manufacturing to become greener.Before the scandal, VW won awards as a top green automotive company, and more green initiatives could rebrand the company as a leading progressive car maker in the industry. Since carbon emissions connect to the scandal, then allotting resources to cleaner future products could put some shine back in their tarnished public image.

Other Ways to Go Green

Going green could also include sponsored activities and initiatives helping their image. Offering online education programs on the realities of carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses, or cleaning up dumpsites, building Green-friendly parks in underprivileged neighborhoods, or offering to buy older gas guzzlers in exchange for low prices on the true 50 miles per gallon clean diesel.

Corporate Responsibility

A lot of disappointed loyal VW consumers and dealers feel betrayed. “Volkswagen was somebody that you could rely on for cutting-edge products and quality and all those things, and now you find out that they’re not above lying just flat out,” laments Bob Rand, a loyal customer planning to join a class-action lawsuit against VW as a result of the scandal.

One way VW could respond to negative publicity – sponsor a series of corporate responsibility seminars in business schools and universities. Seminars covering a range of topics including crimes like lying to regulators, or classes outlining ways to be good corporate citizens. Small admissions and campaign priorities could help Volkswagen regain public trust and rebound after the scandal.  Am sure with their PR agencies they’ll have many strong ideas.

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