Gideon Spanier: The VW emissions scandal is a case study in how not to manage a reputation crisis

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Volkswagen’s emissions scandal is already a case study of how not to manage a reputation crisis.

The car giant’s problems have been compounded by the fact it has traditionally been inward-looking and done its communications in-house rather than relying on external agencies.

VW has hurriedly beefed up its public relations support, using Kekst in America, Finsbury in London and Asia and Hering Schuppener in Germany.

One observer describes Volkswagen as moving from reputationally constipated to reputational dysentery.

Part of the reason the company has been using multiple agencies is thought to be that they might be conflicted in different regions of the world because of rival car clients.

Other firms looking at Volkswagen’s fate should recognise that they need to invest in their reputation before a crisis strikes.

Every aspect of PR — consumer, social, corporate, financial, regulatory, strategic — is now interconnected in our always-on world. That’s why there’s a trend for the biggest PR agencies to become mini-holding groups, with global reach.

America’s Edelman, with no financial PR offering in the UK, has just bought City PR firm Smithfield. Teneo, another American group, came to London in July to snap up consumer agency Blue Rubicon and financial outfit StockWell in a double whammy.

They are betting that clients want a one-stop, supershop that can handle every PR problem.

That joined-up thinking has been sorely absent at Volkswagen, even if PR is the least of its woes.

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September 29, 2015 |
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