Organisational communication management during the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal: A hermeneutic study in attribution, crisis management, and information orientation

Christopher Painter, Jorge Tiago Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The discovery in September 2015 of diesel emissions software cheat technology in Volkswagen (VW) cars initiated a process of organisational crisis management and damage limitation by VW, reflected in the contemporaneous intensive production of public information statements, including press releases, statements to shareholders and investors, and transcripts of oral evidence. Through taking stock of a selection of these public information statements, this article examines the organisational communication management strategies employed to respond to the crisis situation, making an integrated use of attribution, crisis management, and information orientation theories as an interpretive lens. An interpretivist, hermeneutic approach was used to carry out qualitative content analysis on selected statements issued by VW. The analysis reveals that there is a connection between statements relating to attribution and statements relating to information orientation, at the time of the crisis and in preparing future action. Priorities for action form part of the overall crisis management and image restoration approach. Proposed changes in information orientation constitute a key dimension of the company's public response to mitigate the offensiveness of the crisis. The analysis performed demonstrates the applicability of the proposed integration of attribution, crisis management, image restoration, and information orientation theories to better understand and explain how large corporations respond publicly to organisational crisis episodes, more specifically the ways in which attributions, crisis management, and image restoration strategies are related to aspects of information orientation as both components and consequences of the crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-218
Number of pages15
JournalKnowledge and Process Management
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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