Survive A Scandal

Public Relations: 

How To Survive A Scandal


Public relations is many things. It’s a way to develop a connection between a client’s services, products, and/or expertise and the audience that would benefit most from that relationship. In this way it introduces other to and informs them about what’s new and or important about what your client has to offer. In this way it can – and often does - work well with marketing strategies which are designed to promote in order to sell.

And, sometimes, public relations is about managing a reputation. Usually that means one of two things: enhancing it or – as is more often the case – repairing it.

Of course, reparation is required when the connection between a client and the community he/she serves is damaged.  

For example, the international Volkswagen scandal of 2015 –cars rigged to pass SMOG tests in order to support false fuel efficiency claims- seriously damaged the trust consumers around the world had in this automobile company.

A recent article on, suggests that we can all learn important lessons from this particular public relations nightmare.

“While a brand’s best bet for surviving scandal is to avoid doing wrong in the first place, scandal-ridden brands are often afforded public podiums from which they can seek redemption. Handled correctly, a scandal represents an opportunity to win trust, show goodwill and reassure consumers.” Thus wrote Luis Gallardo.

He went on to identify six tips that could help.

Here are two of them:

Tell the truth: the German automobile company’s fatal error – besides the original deceit – was to try to hide the emission cheating software once the Environmental Protection Agency became involved. Not only was the scandal’s inevitable unveiling bad for them, but trying to cover up the paper trail, so to speak, made it appear worse, much worse. And it flew in the face of their original public apologies.

Reaffirm values: Volkswagen – a car (wagen) for the people (volk) has cleverly branded itself as both innovating and functional. This scandal unwound that hard-built reputation as a company that responded to the wants and needs of those it served, in no time flat.

Its public relations strategies now should highlight the ways they have taken their wrongdoing to heart. Honesty, environmentalism and integrity will be valuable messages for them to deliver.

We all know that truths can get stretched. But when they are pulled like pieces of taffy beyond recognition of the underlying facts then repair work has to be done. Quickly. 

Of course, it’s always best to be honest from the start. If client’ are, then their reputations remain intact. 

If not, they may find themselves struggling, just as Volkswagen, to reclaim the glory of the trust and goodwill they once built.

To learn more about how public relations can help your clients survive a scandal click here.

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