Volkswagen scandal underlines importance of trust in PR

The latest revelations concerning Volkswagen and the manipulation of exhaust emissions tests for its diesel cars in the States have rocked the motoring industry.

Reports have compared it to the Queen fixing horse races at Ascot.

Trust is a fundamental part of working relationships and is also of critical importance to PR. It is impossible to have credibility without trust – whether that is with journalists, or when managing a crisis. A main purpose of public relations is to establish and maintain relationships with stakeholders through communication. It follows that public relations is in the trust-making business.

Never before has it been easier to measure people’s feelings towards a business, from review sites to social media posts. It is immediately apparent to anyone seeking information about a business whether it is competent, has integrity, is reliable and is a company that they could work with / buy from and so on. Caring about the needs of customers, telling the truth and being dependable all increase trustworthiness. Trying to exert influence or pressure on others for the sake of meeting self-serving interests – in the case of Volkswagen – damages trust.

Trust is a bottom-line indicator that can improve more than the financial status of an organisation, but it requires years of consistent actions. It can and should be measured and included as a critical indicator for any business concerned about relationships and reputation.

Unfortunately in any business mistakes can happen – but it’s all about how you respond that counts. Nothing is hidden in this digital age and businesses cannot hide behind a web of lies as they will be found out and there’ll be a massive amount of work to do in terms of rebuilding reputation. Now it is more important than ever before that responsible businesses respond quickly to make sure that further damage is limited.

The PR team at Volkswagen have a huge job on their hands now but they have to adopt a trustworthy and proactive approach in order to start rebuilding the reputation of this giant in the car industry.

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