Public Relations Campaign Evaluation

Executive Summary

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the various aspects of PR through clippings analysis and development of recommendations to assist VW in overcoming public publicity. The negative publicity following the disease emission cheat scandal and the recently revealed on the sale of pre-test automobiles are the primary focus. The ten clipping reveals that VW is in need of a PR campaign to assist it to come out of the negative publicity. Models of PR including Preparation, Implementation, and Impact (II) Model, Pyramid Model, public information model and Press Agentry/Publicity are discussed. Subsequently, Media and content analysis and evaluation strategies and approaches are elaborated. Lastly, recommendations on the PR strategy that VW can adapt to overcome the negative reputation are provided.

Table of Contents

Background

VW is one of the leading automobile companies in the world market. It is a Germany based company with its products sold across the world (Reutter, 2018). The automobile industry is characterized by stiff competition with as giants including Toyota, General Motor and VW competition for the same market (Reutter, 2018). The production process starting with modeling, development, testing and commercialization is lengthy and constitute of the use of massive resources. The industry is, therefore, capital intensive. The players in the industry as also required to produce vehicles that are of high quality meeting the set standards for roadworthiness and environmental. The diesel cheat system applied by VW was, therefore, a strategy to gain favorable carbon emission ratings. The scandal brought VW into negative publicity and hence the need for PR campaign to manipulate the reputation positively.

PR Campaign Models, Media Analysis and Evaluation

PR Campaign Models

The purpose of any PR campaign is to have the intended message reach out to the target audience and create the intended picture about the issues or concern. PR managers/experts should, therefore, apply appropriate models in the analysis of the PR campaign, the media used and the evaluation of the outcomes. The primary models used in the analysis include Preparation, Implementation, and Impact (II) Model, Pyramid Model, public information model and Press Agentry/Publicity. Preparation, Implementation, and Impact Model holds that PR campaigns that are prepared effectively tend to realize the intended outcomes (Lai & To, 2015). During the preparation, the practitioners should consider the values of the messages, suitability of the campaign and intend impact. Here, one should set clear objectives and goals for the PR activity or campaign. The implementation regards to how the messaging was formulated, the components incorporated and the platform used in reaching out to the target audiences. Impact of a PR campaign regards to the change in attitude, knowledge gained, as well as behavior and opinion changes by the audience following the campaign. After the implementation of the campaign as planned, the PR practitioner should continuously monitor the effectiveness by considering the outcome and intended outcomes. The evaluation can assist in the identification of some of the successes and areas in need of adjustments.

Pyramid Model considers a PR campaign as a process moving from the bottom of a pyramid towards the apex. According to the model, at the bottom, the PR campaign is at ground zero, which marks the beginning of the process. It is considered the input section and is characterized by huge amount of information and options to pursue (Lai & To, 2015). The PR expert/practitioner sets the objectives, identify the audiences and the media considered appropriate for the campaign. From the bottom, the PR campaign moves to the middle section, which is referred to as the outputs from the first phase. Here, processes and programs are implemented to have the intended messages and information shared to the target audience through the selected media. In other words, the activities in this phase can be regarded as the implementation of the campaign. A transition phase from the middle section of the pyramid and the top/apex, refer to the out-takes or rather the monitoring and assessment phase (Grunig, 2017). As the processes and programs are implemented, the practitioners in charge evaluate whether every component or strategy is incorporated as planned. Through the assessment, mistakes during the planning and program development are avoided through response mechanisms. At the apex, the process involves the evaluation of the outcomes. The evaluating team aims at establishing functional and subsequent outcomes of the campaign processes and programs.

The public information model is applied when an organization or an individual strive to create a positive image by circulating relevant information into the public (Grunig, 2017). particularly, the public relations manager or expert releases press brief, videos, newsletters, magazines and others with information that creates a positive image about the individual or organization concerned. The wordings and other components involved in the PR program are effectively selected to assist in enhancing the quality of the output.

The other model is the Press Agent /Publicity Approach. According to the model, PR is a one-way communication in which one use persuading, half-truths and manipulation in influencing audiences (Grunig, 2017). In other words, the model infers that with the communication tactics adopted by an organization assist in the realization of the intended outcomes. An individual or firm hires a PR expert with the skills and expertise to plan and implement HR campaign with the capability to manipulate the behavior and opinion of the audience. In this case, the expert is the agent acting on behalf of the firm or the individual.

Media and Content Analysis

Apart from the preparation of the script and the message, the media used in a PR campaign play a direct role in influencing the outcomes. An evaluation of the media used is a critical undertaking in a PR exercise. The analysis, in this case, can be qualitative or quantitative. A quantitative media analysis, one gathers numerical data on the media content and the volume of the responses from the audience. For instance, the data on aspects such as the context, the number of views research, and the responses are considered. In other words, media analysis using quantitative approach considers the statistics of the audience reach. On the other hand, qualitative content analysis of the media in PR involves the consideration of the contextual and textual meaning to the target audience (Michaelson & Griffin, 2005). Qualitative analysis of the media is therefore appropriate in incidences where the media and outcomes of a PR can only be measured on a textual form. Media analysis is fundamentally used in the measure of the impact of the PR program(s).

Evaluation

Irrespective of the method used, the evaluation of PR can be done using strategies such as clip counting, circulation and readership analysis, advertising value equivalence, and simple content analysis. Clip counting involves the analysis of the article of the PR messaging adopted. The elements incorporated include the placement, the context, content, audience reach, tone and shareholders. The placement concern the platform and techniques used including the media, audio, and visual feature (Schriner, Swenson & Gilkerson, 2017). The audience reach is the accessibility of the target audience to the information. The context regards to the circumstances, the content is the information and the text, the tone is the attitude extracted from the message and the stakeholders and contributors to the PR program or information.

Circulation and readership analysis concern to the extent to which the PR information and message dispense among the target audience and the number that gets the time to see or read through. The consideration, in this case, is driven by the fact that the PR campaign and information may not have the intended impact if not circulated effectively. Simple content analysis is used in the analysis of the content of the PR message in textual form to establish the intended meaning and theme from various PR campaign messages/information (Schriner, Swenson & Gilkerson, 2017). The analysis and evaluation, in this case, involve the coding of the textual information to establish whether the target audience gets the intended meaning of the PR message. Lastly, the evaluation of the PR campaign and messaging involve the determination of the outcome. Here, it is evaluated whether the campaign has manipulated public opinion, perception or view.

Analysis of Clippings and Recommendations

The ten clippings on VW reveals that the company has in recent years from 2015 been exposed into negative publicity. Therefore, it has acquired a negative reputation upon which it can lead to negative. The analysis of the clipping, in this case, can, therefore, form the basis upon which VW can pursue PR strategy to rectify the tarnished reputation. as evident, the placement of most of the clippings were in prominent online news websites and hence the audience coverage and readership is considerably high. However, VW can come up with a narrative that would assist in manipulating positive thinking about itself to the target audience. The article by Argenti (2015) as per clipping one reveals that the emission cheat software was deliberately mounted and was a decision by VW leadership. In addition, according to bbc.com (2015) (clipping 2) states that according to a board member, the staff involved acted criminally. The information, in this case, infers that the board may not have been entirely involved and hence it was a decision by a section of the management and engineering team. As long as VW must accept the wrongdoing, it can formulate a PR campaign to create a narrative that it was not a decision by the board. The campaign can be built on the fact that the former CEO in charge at the time of the scandal and the VW American Executive have been jailed for their personal responsibility. According to clipping five, the VW American Executive pleaded guilty and apologized for his personal responsibility. The company can have a PR campaign to create an impression the people behind the scandal did not get the approval by appropriate systems within the organization including the board of management. In further framing of the message, the PR Company should seek to emphasize that intended motive for not seeking the approval was to avoid making it public or have the idea rejected or halted at the board of management level. Therefore, the target audience to the message would be persuaded that it was not the VW policy or company decision to have the scandal pursued.

Clipping six shows that VW has already paid a hefty in penalties, fines and compensation to the affected customer. Having paid $32 billion and the decline in share price by about 2% is an indication that the company has suffered significantly for the scandal. Sharing such information and data through a well-organized PR campaign can assist in manipulating the current negative reputation about the company.

Besides, clipping 9 reveals that the diesel emissions scandal shadow is still haunting VW. In this clipping, it is revealed that investors constituting of shareholders have sued VW for compensation. PR messaging to demonstrate how the company has handled the scandal and stabilized to the benefits of the shareholder can assist. The campaign can be formulated in such a way that the 1,670 shareholders demanding 27.4 billion euros can be termed as ill motived at the expense of the majority shareholders.

The last set of clippings regard to another scandal in which VW is accused of secretly selling Pre-Production Test and modeling cars. Clipping 10 reveals that about 6,700 of the test model cars were sold in Europe and North America since 2006. The scandal has been revealed in 2018, which is about 12 years since it started. Clipping 7 reveals similar information, which puts VW into the limelight for the wrong thing yet another time. In response to this, VW should arrest the negative publicity by first accepting about the issue, and affirm that it is taking necessary action. Alternatively, the company can manipulate the information by affirming that the pre-test models were sold only after they were tested and approved to have similar roadworthiness and quality as another automobile in the commercialization of the production cycle.

In any of the PR campaign recommended, a strategy is required to ensure that the success is achieved. Three recommendations are proposed to ensure that the intended outcomes are realized. First, the company should use an appropriate model. Particularly, Press Agent /Publicity Approach would be the best in that it will involve experts in PR as the agents of VW, who would come up with a suiting strategy. Secondly, the media platforms used should be effectively selected. Regarding this issue, the company should first undertake massive campaigns through the same media used in propagating the negative perception. For instance, using Reutters, BBC, Motor Authority, and motor1.com can assist in countering the negative publicity. Thirdly, VW should have a team to review and evaluate the effectiveness of the PR campaign to learn from the weakness and escalate the areas of strength for optimal results.

Conclusion

In summary, it is evident that VW has over the last 3 years since 2015 suffered negative publicity arising from the diesel emission scandal. The company has paid a lot of money in fines, penalties and in compensation of the customers. Addition, the uncovering that it has been selling pre-test and modeling cars as new or secondhand products escalate the intensity of the negative publicity. The analysis of the PR campaign models, the content analysis and evaluation of effectiveness reveals that a PR campaign should be systematically and effectively pursued. Involving PR experts can assist VW in manipulating the negative publicity in its favor as recommended in this paper.

References

Argenti P., (October 13, 2015). The biggest culprit in VW’s emissions scandal. Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2015/10/13/biggest-culprit-in-volkswagen-emissions-scandal/

BBC.COM (29 September 2015). Volkswagen staff acted criminally, says board member. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-34397426

Bernhard M., (Aug 1, 2018) VW takes another hit from emissions scandal. Market Watch. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/vw-takes-another-hit-from-emissions-scandal-2018-08-01

Bruce, C (DEC 12, 2018) VW Recalling 6,700 Test Vehicles Wrongfully Sold To Customers. motor1.com. Retrieved from https://www.motor1.com/news/297007/vw-pre-production-vehicle-recall/

Cheromcha K., (December 11, 2018). Volkswagen Illegally Sold Pre-Production Test Cars Instead of Crushing Them the cars—riddled with defects big and small—were never certified for road use. Retrieved from http://www.thedrive.com/news/25421/volkswagen-illegally-sold-pre-production-test-cars-instead-of-crushing-them

Gilboy J., (September 10, 2018). Investors Sue Volkswagen for $10.7B Over Dieselgate Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal nightmare isn’t over yet. Retrieved from http://www.thedrive.com/news/23478/investors-sue-volkswagen-for-10-7b-over-dieselgate

Grunig, J. E. (2017). Symmetrical presuppositions as a framework for public relations theory. In Public relations theory (pp. 17-44). London, Routledge.

Hotten R., (10 December 2015). Volkswagen: The scandal explained. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-34324772

Lai, L. S. L. & To, W. M. (2015). Social Media Content Analysis: A Grounded Approach, Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 16 (2), 138-152.

Luann J., L., (October 15, 2016). Volkswagen’s lax ethical and emissions standards. Washington post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/volkswagens-lax-ethical-and-emissions-standards/2016/10/13/aab55684-8fc0-11e6-9c85-ac42097b8cc0_story.html?noredirect=on

Macnamara, J. (2015). Breaking the measurement and evaluation deadlock: a new approach and model. Journal of Communication Management, 19(4), 371-387.

Michaelson, D., & Griffin, T. L. (2005). A new model for media content analysis. Gainesville: Institute for Public Relations. Wikipedia’s role in reputation management: An analysis of… institutional environments”. Administrative Science Quarterly, 43(4), 877-905.

Placement:

Reutter (2018). Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/overview/VOWG_p.DE

Schriner, M., Swenson, R., & Gilkerson, N. (2017). Outputs or Outcomes? Assessing Public Relations Evaluation Practices In Award-Winning PR Campaigns. Public Relations Journal.

Szymkowski S (December 11, 2018). Another scandal at VW: Automaker sold pre-production vehicles as used cars. Motor Authority. Retrieved from https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1120404_another-scandal-at-vw-automaker-sold-pre-production-vehicles-as-used-cars

Appendix: Portfolio of 10 Clippings

Clipping 1

Source: Argenti P., (October 13, 2015). The biggest culprit in VW’s emissions scandal. Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2015/10/13/biggest-culprit-in-volkswagen-emissions-scandal/

Placement:

  • The article was published on fortune.com, which is an online new platform

  • The article was placed in the commentary section of the website

  • A photo of a diesel motor at a plant in Salzgitter is place maybe to prominently bring the attention of the audience that the scandal was planned right at the planning and in the production process

Audiences reach:

  • The audience reach of the article is considerably high

  • Fortune.com is highly respected online news and contemporary issues reporting platform.

  • The target audiences are the online users from across the world

  • Parties including other news agencies, the customers to the affected vehicle, authorities in jurisdictions to which the cars were sold and environmental care champions would be interested to the content

Context:

  • At the time when the scandal was made public but little was known about critical details on whether it was deliberate or not

Content:

  • The author dismissed an editorial by The New York Times which was quick to report that it was not a corporate decision, but a matter of a couple of software engineers

  • The author is of the opinion that the scandal was intentional with the aim of given VW a strong competitive edge as a leader in corporate social responsibility

Tone

  • the tone used by the author is a negative by stating that it was deliberately and criminally perpetrated

Stakeholder

  • The author mentioned New York Times and borrowed a quote by Greek philosopher Socrates

  • He also borrowed a lot from his past research and writing on corporate responsibility

Clipping 2

BBC.com (29 September 2015). Volkswagen staff acted criminally, says board member. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-34397426

Placement:

The article was published on the official online page for BBC News

  • The page includes a video of the board member making the statement and an image of the care under the test system demonstration how the scandal was uncovered

Audience reach

  • bbc.com is a reliable source of information and data on contemporary matters

  • The interested stakeholders including the owners of the cars

  • The information can be easily accessed by millions of people who regularly search for information from the site

Context

The publication was made at the time the world was wondering about what happened and who was responsible

Content

  • The author reports that the Olaf Lies, a Volkswagen board member said that the staff criminally placed the cheat device and hence should be held responsible

  • The extent of the damage is also revealed about 11 million diesel engine cars were affected and were to be recalled.

Tone

  • The tone used is harsh as it implies that as VW carry on the financial burden in recalls and fines, the officers should be brought to book

Stakeholder

  • The key stakeholder brought on board include US Environmental Protection Agency which played a role in uncovering the scandal

  • Matthias Mueller who replaced Martin Winterkorn as chief executive and promised relentless investigations in interested of uncovering what went wrong

Clipping 3

Hotten R., (10 December 2015). Volkswagen: The scandal explained. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-34324772

Placement

  • Published on the official online page for BBC News

  • An image of broken VW logo over the American flag is placed after the headline to symbolize the loss of acceptance of the brand in the American market.

Audience reach

  • The target audience or those interested to the information include the shareholders, car buyers and owner, and the highway authorities

  • BBC.com can be accessed by millions of people across the world who are interest on information about the

Context

  • The context of the publication of the article is that it can

Content

  • The author reveals the EPA found that about 482,000 cars were affected in US with the brands affected including Audi A3, Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat

  • The action was likely to be deliberate to assist the company in boosting its sale volume objective

Tone

  • A negative tone is used by the author because it infers that the act was unethical and deliberately planed

Stakeholder

  • The stakeholders mentioned include VW engineers and  the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Clipping 4

Luann J., L., (October 15, 2016). Volkswagen’s lax ethical and emissions standards. Washington post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/volkswagens-lax-ethical-and-emissions-standards/2016/10/13/aab55684-8fc0-11e6-9c85-ac42097b8cc0_story.html?noredirect=on

Placement

The article was published on Washington post

Audience reach

  • Washington post is among the leading online news reporters and analysis hence would be viewed by a large pool of audience in search on news information online.

  • Interested individuals wanting to know about VW, the emission scandal or any other thing about the company can get access into the article and the information contained

Context

The world was still getting into terms with the magnetite of the problem and implication of the scandal

Content

  • The scandal may have been compelled by Martin Winterkorn’s ambitious plan to see VW sell more than 10 million cars and become the world’s largest automaker

  • Lessons learned include the impact of severe pressure to succeed and ethical violations can led to undesirable behavior and massive losses

  • VW had to recall over 10 million vehicles and incur huge fines in addition to the adversely affected

  • The CEO, Winterkorn resigned after the scandal was discovered

Tone

  • Negative tone is used because it infers to the scandal is a deliberate unethical practice

Stakeholder

  • The stakeholders mentioned include VW engineers and  the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Clipping 5

Gonzales R., (December 6, 2017). Senior Volkswagen Executive Sentenced In Diesel-Emissions Scandal. The National Radio INC. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/06/568949541/senior-volkswagen-executive-sentenced-in-diesel-emissions-scandal

Placement

  • The article was placed on The National Radio INC online news website

  • An image of Oliver Schmid the VW’s US executive jailed for 7 years is placed to show the reader the individual sentenced

Audience reach

Online information searchers about the outcomes of the discovery of the VW’s emission cheat

Context

Amid the speculations on whether the scandal was widely known within VW and who were involved

Content

  • Oliver Schmid was sentenced for 7 years and $400,000 fine for been involved in the scandal

  • He pleaded guilty and tendered his apologies for making the unethical decisions

Tone

  • A negative tone us used because it reveals that the scandal deliberately pursued considering that Oliver Schmid agreed that he was aware about everything

Stakeholder

The New York Times is involved as the source of some information to the article

Clipping 6

Bernhard M., (Aug 1, 2018) VW takes another hit from emissions scandal. Market Watch. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/vw-takes-another-hit-from-emissions-scandal-2018-08-01

Placement

  • The article was published on Market Watch’s website.

Audience reach

  • The audience targeted are the readers interested to know about the magnitude and consequences of the scandal

  • Online information searchers and reader about automobiles can easily access the article

Context

  • Amid speculations about the impact of the scandal to VW and related stakeholders

Content

  • VW reported that it already incurred $32 billion in penalties, fines and compensation for customers

  • About 11 million vehicles recalled

  • VW’s Shares price in the Wolfsburg declined by 2%

Tone

  • Neutral tone but the message can create a negative impression about the performance of VW.

Stakeholder

  • VW’s Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter is quoted as the source of the financial data

Clipping 7

Szymkowski S (December 11, 2018). Another scandal at VW: Automaker sold pre-production vehicles as used cars. Motor Authority. Retrieved from https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1120404_another-scandal-at-vw-automaker-sold-pre-production-vehicles-as-used-cars

Placement

  • The article was placed on The National Radio INC online news website

  • A logo for VW is placed in the top section of the page for better identification of the company

Audience reach

The fans to the radio and information searchers about VW and the sandal can access the information

Context

At the time that the information about the sale of pre-production models are sold by VW as completed vehicles

Content

  • VW has been selling the pre-production model since 2006 as complete products

  • Mostly sold in U.S. and European

  • About 6,400 cases are confirmed, but could be more

Tone

  • A neutral tone is applied as the author just intended to share the information

Stakeholder

  • Handelsblatt and Der Spiegel

Clipping 8

Bruce, C (DEC 12, 2018) VW Recalling 6,700 Test Vehicles Wrongfully Sold To Customers. motor1.com. Retrieved from https://www.motor1.com/news/297007/vw-pre-production-vehicle-recall/

Placement

The article was published on motor1.com, a news website focused on automobiles

Audience reach

  • Individuals interested about the topic and information about automobiles are easily reached

  • It is shared online hence accessed to all those who have internet connection

Context

  • Amid the revelation that productions models were sold to buyers as new or old vehicles

Content

  • The article reveals that VW sold 6,700 test model cars since 2006 Europe and North America

  • However, Der Spiegel’s research reveals that about  9,000 vehicles investigated do not have a clear construction status

Tone

  • A neutral tone is witnessed in the article, but it also reveals escalation of the unethical reputation of the company

Stakeholder

  • Handelsblatt and Der Spiegel are the sources of information mentioned in the article

Clipping 9

Gilboy J., (September 10, 2018). Investors Sue Volkswagen for $10.7B Over Dieselgate Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal nightmare isn’t over yet. Retrieved from http://www.thedrive.com/news/23478/investors-sue-volkswagen-for-10-7b-over-dieselgate

Placement

  • The news article was placed on The Drive, which provides news and information about automobiles

  • An image of the VW logo is placed to give the readers the picture of the company whose issue is addressed

Audience reach

  • General audience is the target of the news article, but it is of significant meaning to shareholder

Context

  • The news emerge at the time VW has tried to overcome

Content

  • A bundle of 1,670 VW’s institutional shareholders claiming compensation of 27.4 billion euros for the losses they suffered

  • The investors claim that VW did not inform them of the magnitude of the problem

Tone

  • A neutral tone is adopted as it only provided the information about the demands and how it bring back into the scandal it has tried to leave behind

Stakeholder

  • Reuters is particularly mentioned as a source of some of the information shared in the article

Clipping 10

Cheromcha K., (December 11, 2018). Volkswagen Illegally Sold Pre-Production Test Cars Instead of Crushing Them the cars—riddled with defects big and small—were never certified for road use. Retrieved from http://www.thedrive.com/news/25421/volkswagen-illegally-sold-pre-production-test-cars-instead-of-crushing-them

Placement

  • The news article was placed on The Drive, which provides news and information about automobiles

  • The article provides a broken VW log, to signify the damage to its brand

Audience reach

  • The Drive specializes on news and information about automobiles

  • Audiences interested to such information would always access it online through the website

Context

  • The discovery of the secrete that VW have been selling test models as new or used cars depending on millage to unaware buyers

Content

  • VW has sold 6,700 test model cars since 2006 in Europe and North America

  • The unconfirmed sources suggests that as high as 17,000 vehicles were involved hence more investigation can assist in ascertaining the magnitude of the problem

Tone

  • A negative tone is applied, the authors paints the unethical practice and reveal that it took place for over a decade

  • The author reminds the readers about the diesel cheat scandal which the company has been fighting for the last three years

Stakeholder

  • The stakeholders whose information contributed to the development of the article include Handelsblatt, Der Spiegel and Germany’s Motor Transport Authority.

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