If you want to learn about brand management in a crisis, who you gonna call? Volkswagen! (Sing it, we swear it works.) Networx Marketers Meetings are holding a “Crisis and Reputation Management” breakfast on October 24, and one of the main speakers is Kurt McGuiness, public relations manager for Volkswagen Australia. The write-up says:

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity … or is there?

“Meet two experienced communicators who know all about brand reputation management, and how to think on your feet, fast!

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“Ogilvy Public Relations CEO, Kieran Moore and Volkswagen Group Australia PR Manager, Kurt McGuiness are guests at this month’s Networx Breakfast as we explore strategies for managing a brand’s reputation.

“From crisis management to tackling those negative conversations online, we discuss strategies for safeguarding a brand’s image, and advice on what to do when the conversation turns sour.”

Are Volkswagen really in a position to be lecturing on this? During last year’s Volkswagen diesel scandal — in which the car company was revealed to have put devices in its engines that adjusted their fuel usage when tested for emissions output, artificially improving the figures — the company took days to admit the subterfuge, instead blaming  “the unlawful behaviour of engineers and technicians involved in engine development”. After that, CEO Martin Winterkorn opted to issue a video apology, taped within Volkswagen, instead of answering reporters’ questions. It didn’t work; he resigned a short time later. Public relations experts were scathing of Volkswagen’s handling of the crisis, saying that the slow trickle of information and even slower accepting of responsibility just kept the whole thing on the front pages. Still, Ms Tips guesses that does give Volkswagen one type of expertise: a textbook example of what not to do.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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