Volkswagen is in serious trouble. For decades, VW was one of the industry’s image and marketing leaders. Remember the “Think Small” campaign? But now, the German automaker is living a PR nightmare.
“Dieselgate” came to light on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed Volkswagen (1) installed software on 11 million cars worldwide to hide the amount of pollution being emitted, (2) purposely evaded U.S. law for several years and (3) is now in full-blown crisis mode.
So, what should a company facing this level of reputation damage do?
1) Apologize – And Mean It
Most consumers want to trust and respect their favorite brands. VW has issued a video apology, but it needs to show it’s serious about taking responsibility and assure customers and the public at-large it won’t happen again.
2) Fix the Problem – Fast
VW’s CEO resigned, R&D Department chiefs were suspended, and the company set aside $7.3 billion for corrective actions. With an expected U.S. recall of 500,000 Volkswagen cars coming soon, they must be transparent, fix the cars, repair the reputation of the German auto industry and brace for legal action.
3) Repair the Relationship
This is by far the most difficult and will likely take years to accomplish (if ever). Companies in this situation must wholeheartedly commit to regaining the trust of customers and the public.
4) Don’t Go At It Alone
Even large companies need assistance with reputation management. So managers should engage a professional PR firm to plan ahead, craft the message quickly, deliver it decisively, and implement a professional long-term strategy.
We’ll be watching as Volkswagen tries to rebound – and should you need us, we’re here to help your company handle its next crisis.