PRomising atonement

      68 Comments on PRomising atonement

Martin Winterkorn

Last Wednesday was the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is when sinners confess their transgressions and promise to repent. Its ancient traditions are somewhat similar to crisis management in public relations.

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned on Yom Kippur after eight years as head of the world’s largest auto manufacturer, one day after admitting that 11 million Volkswagens were built with software that falsify official emissions tests. Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed the car company had deliberately put software in diesel cars that turned emissions control systems off when the car isn’t undergoing inspections. Volkswagen now faces billions of dollars in fines and massive numbers of class-action lawsuits. And while he said he personally did not know about the software, Winterkorn declared this “manipulation” must never happen again, and promised transparency and speed in addressing the issue. Meanwhile, VW stock value has dropped from $167 to $115 a share in just the past week.

Jude castThat same Wednesday, the news team WGN-TV in Chicago found itself atoning. During its 9 p.m. newscast Tuesday, they aired a story about Yom Kippur, but the graphic over the anchorman’s shoulder was a yellow Star of David with the word “Jude” imprinted on it; it was the symbol sewn onto the clothing of Jews by the Nazis in Germany. The station’s general manager and news director issued an apology, saying, “Regrettably, we failed to recognize that the artwork we chose to accompany the story contained an offensive symbol. This was an unfortunate mistake. Ignorance is not an excuse. We are extremely embarrassed and we deeply apologize…” One might conclude that some producer lacked historical perspective and didn’t know the symbol was borne from hatred. It’s why you must have good general knowledge of history, pop culture and current events when you’re creating content for audiences.

Public offenses often become PR crises, large and small. The first step to winning back trust is through acknowledgement and apology. Of course, though atonement starts with “I’m sorry,” it doesn’t work unless the offenders stop sinning. Your thoughts?


68 thoughts on “PRomising atonement

  1. premierorion

    The visual shown over the reporters shoulder should have never been approved to air on television, but once it was the station had to begin crisis management. The first step of which would be to say sorry, which is what they did almost immediately. However, there is much more to a crisis management plan. An apology is not enough in a situation like this and actions must be done to show that they are truly sorry about what has taken place.

  2. Bianca Kroening

    Yes, step one is always a good, sincere apology. However, there’s a reason it’s “step one” and not “the only step.” A good apology has to be followed up with some action in order to be effective. Some sort of proof that the network is making improvements on their knowledge of history would be nice. Maybe even a nice gesture towards the Holocaust Memorial community, I don’t know. It’s up to them!

  3. Nicole Garcia

    Though Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn apologized, the fact that this wasn’t accidental and instead was done to deceive Volkswagen consumers, aggrandizes the issue even more so.

    Nonetheless, though it’ll be difficult, I do believe Volkswagen can move forward if it not only becomes transparent with its publics, but also becomes a leader in environmentally friendly vehicles and related technologies.

  4. Lysa Carre

    If I were a P.R practitioner working on behalf of Volkswagen, I would implement strategies that would help gain the trust back of consumers and dealerships. I believe the most effective ways to do so would be first to offer free service for the buyers who bought these defected vehicles as long as they have ownership of it. Additionally, I would fix the intentional defects to make those endangered vehicles more eco-friendly, along with all other Volkswagen cars moving forward. Therefore, the main objective of implementing these effective strategies would be to help prove integrity of the car brand despite this horrific scandal.

  5. kgorsky1

    This newscast gone wrong is a huge mistake on part of the news channel that ran it. Even if it was an unintended mistake, it was downright offensive to the thousands of people who lost their lives or were affected by the Holocaust. This fault will cost the news channel big in terms of its public relations and will be difficult to clean up.

  6. Chelsey Fuller

    Overall, it has been a messy few weeks in the media. The VW scandal definitely took people by surprise and has resulted in anger. That newscast was just another horrible mistake. I honestly don’t know how they didn’t fact-check their graphic before putting it on television. Sometimes I think there is no excuse for stupidity. Even though an apology is the first step, sometimes it is just so hard to think that it was a genuine mistake. The CEO had to have known this scandal from the start, over wise he is an awful CEO on both counts. And I really don’t know how that news team didn’t recognize the historical background of that image. While saying sorry does put people on the right path, it doesn’t always mean that the public believes this was a mistake from the beginning.

  7. Mallory Marin

    Although an apology may make some people feel fuzzy inside, for most, an “I’m sorry” is not enough. Personally, for Volkswagen, an “I’m sorry” isn’t going to fix the irreparable damage to the environment or amount of pollution we are now breathing in even more every day because of their carelessness. Winterkorn is clearly guilty. How would the CEO of the company NOT know about this software? That doesn’t make any sense. And like my mom used to quote Judge Judy, “If it doesn’t make sense, it usually isn’t true.” From a public perspective, it is cowardly to resign the day after the announcement of the software. No apology can restore his dignity. The news station, on the other hand, delivered a more sincere apology. They took total blame for a careless mistake, which may have offended some, but had more opportunity to be fixed. In my opinion, Volkswagen management should be suffering these tremendous declines in sales. Although they might be able to come up with some environmentally-friendly solution, it is their salespeople, mechanics, and consumers who will pay the real price. They should really be apologizing to the hundreds of thousands of families who are now going to lose their primary income and the consumers who won’t be able to get their brand new cars registered at motor vehicle. No amount of PR can make that better.

  8. vciavarella24

    In the media errors and mistakes are expected, but historical and religious errors I believe need to be taken seriously because many people can get seriously offended. It is shocking that this happened because in this day and age many people should know what that symbol represented. History and knowledge is important. They took the apology to twitter which is good, but someone should have caught that before it went live.

  9. jennamorace

    I personally think that in this type of situation you need to have people more culturally aware working for you if you are going to be reporting new stores in topics regarding religion. That mistake should not have been made and the fact that not a single person noticed it before the public is embaressing in general. That type of public relations mistake does happen but, i think it could and should be easily avoided. They did the right thing by stating an apology but im sure that won’t make people forget what has already been done.

  10. lourdesjc

    Reacting right away and issuing an apology was definitely the correct move for both Volkswagen and WGN-TV in Chicago. However, the hardest part is yet to come. They need to regain the trust from consumers’ and viewers respectively. IN VW’s case, they should start with a clean slate from the top of the corporation. All who had knowledge of the manipulations to diesel emissions should face punishment. I think transparency is a good way to start changing the view of consumers but other actions should be taken like Corporate Social Responsibility where VW can dedicate themselves to areas where emissions harm the environment. In WGN-TV Chicago’s case, those who work on the graphics can hold an ethics meeting to ensure its employees don’t forget that what they present on air can affect the News organization’s reputation for better or worse. The station may hold community events embracing different cultures and diversity in an attempt to regain the public’s trust.

  11. Sabrina O'Neil

    In both these cases, issuing a sincere apology immediately following the incidents was their best move. Now only time will tell if their apologies are genuine and both VW and WGN-TV take the proper steps to avoid other conflicts. In the case of WGN-TV, all it takes is a quick Google search to ensure no misinformation in future stories. While VW’s case is a deeper wound to patch up, if the company remains transparent throughout the process of fixing this issue and the production of their future cars, they might be able to regain trust from customers.

  12. Lindsey

    The best thing VW could have done in this case was force their CEO to step down. The next step is a thorough apology with an explanation of exactly how and why this happened. There needs to be an investigation conducted by people outside of the VW company. There needs to be accountability and transparency. The people who made this technology possible, and those who knew it was going on and didn’t say anything, should all be identified and fired. Once there is a sweep of everyone who had knowledge of the unlawful activity, I believe the public will begin to forgive VW and trust them again. Their new CEO is the former head of Porsche, a questionable move since VW owns Porsche.

  13. Erin Schmitt

    This was the first that I had heard about this case with WGN-TV, and it is definitely an extremely unfortunate blunder. It is quite shocking that a person in charge of this content would not have the knowledge and correct fact-checking to prevent such an error from happening. Someone placed in this position should have full understanding and discretion of the images and content that they are putting out there as it speaks for the entirety of the station and network. Their apology does, however, seem genuine, but it still stands as an embarrassing reflection of carelessness.
    Publicly apologizing is the correct first step In the case with Volkswagen, but it is what happens afterwards that truly matters. I feel sorry for the next CEO who has to step into this mess left behind by his predecessor. It will take a lot of further action for VW to repair and rebuild its relationship with consumers as this has done a great deal to hamper the trust with the public. As a driver of a VW vehicle, I hope that this reassurance can come sooner rather than later.

  14. Liz Steinberg

    Yes, it is a good step in the right direction that they apologized for the mistake. When it comes to news, you need to be able to admit your mistakes and fix them ASAP for the purpose of accuracy and integrity. This is an unfortunate situation, but honestly how did no one recognize the mistake before airing the broadcast? That, to me, is inexcusable. We’ve all learned about this since we were young. There is no excuse to not recognize that symbol for what it is. While the apology stands, and it was the right thing to do, this mistake should have never happened. Someone will probably lose their job over this.

  15. Emily DiLaura

    I couldn’t help but shake my head while reading this at how unbelievable people can be. Does an apology really matter when the offense was so obviously done. VW had to have known that this was wrong just as WGN-TV shad to have known that that would be a very offensive photo to show in accompaniment. Although apologizing for such “mistakes” is important, I do not think it makes much of a difference when everyone knows they are not sorry for what they did, they’re sorry for how it is affecting them.
    If there is one thing I learned at a very young age, it is to only apologize when you plan to change. I guess time will tell if VW and WGN-TV are really sorry.

  16. Allie Giordano

    The WGN-TV in Chicago incident is a great case to show that history will always play an important part in our lives, even as a PR professional. Keeping up with what is going on in the world is very important for those working in media. This would of never happened if they knew their facts. Their apology was obviously necessary and hopefully they will learn from their mistake From a PR standpoint, a more well thought out and sincere apology could of have helped the situation. The same goes for the CEO of VW. He could of definitely had a more sincere apology considering what his company did caused major worldwide issues.

  17. Alexis Carfagno

    I definitely agree that WGN-TV’s issue of an apology is the first step towards atonement. As with any public relations crisis, the best thing to do is acknowledge the mistake and address it immediately. I praise WGN-TV for acknowledging their mistake right away and stating that “Ignorance is not an excuse”, however, I think WGN-TV should do more than just an apology and put their words into actions. As stated previously in this blog, Yom Kippur is one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, and for WGN-TV to put a graphic that reminded people of one of the most heart-wrenching and devastating time periods on a very holy day can be very insulting to many viewers of WGN-TV. I am also surprised that the graphic actually made it on air and throughout the many levels the story had to go through and get cleared, no one caught onto the graphic before it aired on TV. I think this will teach a lesson to WGN-TV and all news outlets that we should have some knowledge in every aspect of news whether it be politics, history, entertainment and so on.

  18. Tara Egan

    I strongly agree with the comment made in the end of the blog saying “It’s why you must have good general knowledge of history, pop culture and current events when you’re creating content for audiences.” The WGN new channel Yon Kippur event was most likely accidental, but it shows how important fact checking is.
    To also comment on the VW story, in my opinion it is fishy that the CEO stepped down and also stated he did not know anything about the emissions scandal. As the CEO, it is strange that he would not be involved in such a huge decision. I’m looking forward to see what evidence is found in the investigation and if Winterkorn is involved.

  19. Jessica Granger

    It is surprising that the news team did not realize the image was offensive before being aired on a Chicago Television system just as it is equally surprising that VW CEO Martin Winterkorn was clueless to the faulty emission tests. Thank goodness Public Relations is a profession. Trying to sympathize with the readers is the best way to save your image.

  20. Victor Alicea

    I fully agree. WGN- Chicago apologizing for their lack of knowledge on the Holocaust and a mistake like that is definitely the first step towards atonement. When it comes to this problem all you could do as a company is apologize and unfortunately let go of the person who was responsible for such an ignorant mistake. WGN handled this crisis the best they can. If there was no acknowledgement then there would be an even bigger problem. Volkswagen on the other hand need a lot more than an apology for the sins they have committed. For a company that should be working for a better car for the people, putting the environment and millions of people’s lives in danger just to keep them up to standards on paper is the complete opposite of their values. People generally feel safe in these cars. This causes unease and uncertainty and having the CEO just leave the company is not going to solve the problem. Something needs to be done from Volkswagens end to gain trust and have their customers at ease once again. With their proven track records for safe cars, I have no doubt that coming back from this is definitely possible.

  21. Jillian Zagorski

    News stories must be written, published, and/ or announced at a certain time for deadline- which leaves a lot of room for mistakes. Although this does not justify the acts made, it is perhaps why it was not well thought about. However, I don’t understand why artwork was needed to begin with? I would think most of the world would know that Yom Kippur is a Jewish holiday and even if you didn’t, why does that make a difference? It’s almost like those tests you would take an elementary school… Highlight what is important and cross out what is irrelevant. The main issue here is that Volkswagen has scammed millions of consumers and instead of confessing and being responsible for what has happened, the CEO has chosen to resign. there is just no way you could be a CEO such a large corporation do not know what is going on within. Re-elaborating on the misused symbolism, Star of David should never have to have Jude written on it because the star is a symbol itself. What’s even more disturbing about the image is that not only is the star gold with the exact writing used during the Holocaust, but it is displayed on a white and blue striped background. Someone needs to learn how to use Google.

  22. Forrest Gitlin

    While the news station clearly made a mistake in airing that picture, it seems to be just a mistake. However, the scandal at Volkswagen (VW) is not about a mistake. Instead, VW intentionally designed, installed, and then covered up the software that falsified data. This could not have been the actions of one or even just a few people. Therefore, until Volkswagen is rid of anyone involved in the scandal, their apology seems to be little more than a band-aid to the grievous wound on their public image. For it to be such a large scandal that the CEO of the company resigned right away, it looks like the fallout from this may just be beginning.

  23. awoolman13

    My high school U.S. history teacher always told our class that you must know history because it will come up in life. Whether your boss decides to chat you up about the American Revolution at a work cocktail party, or you need a graphic for coverage on Yom Kippur, you must have a basic knowledge of history. This basic knowledge would have helped this news station avoid negative PR.

  24. hallieabish

    It is very shocking that someone who works in news production is not aware of the world’s history. Of course an apology in this case is necessary. The producer should immediately be fired. How could no one working at the time know that the image was offensive? This is very confusing to me.

  25. Melissa Cooke

    An apology in any wrong doing of life is always the first stepping to resolving the matter and moving forward. In some instances an apology is sufficient when the mistake made was truly that a mistake. This is exactly what happened with WGN-TV, a lack of historical knowledge led them to make a mistake of airing an inappropriate photo in their broadcast which could have offended their audience. Upon realizing their mistake they issued an apology to their audience, which I believe is a sufficient PR crisis management regarding the situation. As for VW an apology is just a first step in their PR crisis management project of rebuilding their brand and company. VW intentionally deceived and put their consumers at risk of harm which is a major error of the companies not a mistake. The company is going to continue to have to prove to their customers over time and multiple efforts just how sorry they are for they’re wrong doings. An apology is always the first step the next steps are determined by the action of wrong doing.

  26. syanok

    I completely agree, an apology means nothing unless the person / organization stops doing what they apologized for in the first place. In public relations, admitting there is an issue and then apologizing are often used in an effort to regain credibility among publics and other outside audiences, but a large part of this is also showing those publics that you mean what you say by no longer committing the act you apologized for and making visible steps in the right direction. The news station did the right thing and was able to stay out of a lot of trouble because of it. In terms of Volkswagen, it was right for the CEO to step down because this was simply one of many bad decisions made under his watch, and I’m sure it would not have been the last. While an apology would have probably worked as well for his personal image, the only way for the actual brand itself to start appearing as though it is making considerable strides in the right direction would be for the head to step down in a public fashion, which is what happened here.

  27. Hailey Oliveri

    As someone who just recently purchased a VW, although it is not a diesel engine, this makes me worried. I had a lot of car problems with my previous vehicle and felt safer switching to a VW. It is a newer model and it concerns me that maybe there is tampering done on the engine in my car as well. A sorry doesn’t fix anything, they need to put the customers at ease. The CEO leaving doesn’t make me feel at ease, it makes me feel that he had something else to hide.

  28. laurabellini

    As you stated above, it is true that an apology is the crucial first step for managing any PR crisis. But sometimes, an apology just isn’t enough. In the case of WGN in Chicago, I believe their apology suffices. It is clear through their apologetic statement that the offense was not intended, but an error in research. I do, however, believe that the person in charge of creating the graphic should face disciplinary action for not doing their job correctly, no matter if it was a mistake or not.

    In the case of Volkswagen, it is crucial that more than a public apology was made. These actions were done on purpose. The CEO has stepped down, and that is appropriate. Any other people involved should be removed from their position immediately as well.

  29. Sophia Shakola

    The VW issue is one that is not going to be fixed with an apology, but it is a start. The VW issue is one that will take time to overcome and depending on what steps VW takes, the public opinion of the VW company may be at stake. If they handle themselves properly and do not make excuses, they may be able to save what little trust people may still have in them.

    In regards to the WGN mistake, I think that their apology was very straightforward and took ownership of the incident. I think that even though many people were probably offended by it, the apology helped them move past it.

  30. Pakelody Cheam

    I agree that apologies are typically the first step in any PR crises. The VW scandal; however, is beyond repair to me. In addition to falsifying emission test results, the company was on spot for a year before admitting there was false software in the car systems. As someone who is majoring in an environmental field, it’s shocking that a company this big can go about this for so long. It makes a person what else could have been inaccurate. I’m interested to see how Winterkorn’s successor handles this.

  31. kassaramcelroy

    I believe that even though VW issued an apology, the actions of the company are too reckless. An apology after a deliberate corrupt action does not receive forgiveness. Regarding the Chicago newscast, the apology was sincere and the mistake is believable. Although the mistake could have been avoided entirely, the apology is enough for me in this situation.

  32. Rachel Tyler

    An apology is always a necessary first step. An apology should also come from the heart. A company should be truly sorry for the actions or decision they have made in the past that have gotten them into a crisis. I feel like in certain cases a company will only apologize because they have gotten caught doing something wrong.

  33. zhenpanda

    Those in charge of propagating news must have the right knowledge and information so as not to offend and appear bluntly stupid. When it comes to atonement- it is absolutely important to be sincere and to take further actions to right wrongs and become a better person.

  34. lpardee1

    Yes apology is always the first step, and an apology that can be taken seriously. In the case of Volkswagen, they did apologize, but only because they got caught. How are we ever supposed to trust a company that purposely deceived their costumers for years and years. This is a huge issue and I do not think that it deserves forgiveness from anyone. Something as important as our environment and safety shouldn’t be messed around with. As for the news broadcast, I think that an apology is not only the right thing to do but this corporation can be forgiven. Ignorance is no excuse as said but accidents happen and I would really like to believe that the picture was unintentional.

  35. Dan Hanson

    I believe that the WGN case was absolutely an accident. Stupid, yes, but not intentional. Regarding the Volkswagen issue, this is an absolute nightmare if you work for the company. I was talking to my dad about it yesterday and at one point I referenced this as “their BP oil spill.” Lots of fines, huge crisis, and the CEO has to step down. Not to mention it’s a PR nightmare, especially when your stores and show rooms are basically ghost towns right now.

  36. Daphne Kotridis

    Though WGN-TV’s mistake was careless, it was indeed an accident. Their apology was sincere and their claim of ignorance was legitimate. On the other hand, VW’s falsification of their emissions tests was a deliberate attempt to do something illegal and get away with it. I’m not sure any amount of apology from them can rectify their situation. I suppose the CEO resigning is supposed to signify a new, more honest beginning for the company, but in my opinion things are not looking good for VW and probably won’t for a long time.

  37. Marc Roessle

    Volkswagon was clearly in the wrong in this situation. A sincere apology would have made things a little bit better for them from a PR standpoint. As far as the news incident goes, the network showed great disrespect to its jewish viewers by showing that image if the star of David.

  38. blackicedtea

    The acts of the VW exCEO illustrate the acts of a coward. He clearly was the one who made this call and he looks guilty for retiring immediately after this huge scandal erupts. After being in good name for 8 years and retiring and the mere sight of a possible crisis, he ditches the empire he helped built. This makes it harder for VWs head Public Relations director to come out on top. While it might have been better for VWs future sales for him to resign, it still bruises their reputation because they hired the felon in the first place.
    In regards to the second PR outrage, it seems to have been an honest mistake paired with a pinch of ignorance. As a Jew, I grew up learning about the tragedies of WWII in Hebrew school at a young age. While I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of learning such a rich culture, we also studies the war in secular school. The “Jude” star that the Jews were forced to wear with shame during the war is not a great representation of our people, let alone used to represent one of the holiest days of the Jewish year. The holiday of Yom Kippur is one of the most important, used to repent for our sins, get back in G-ds good graces and start the new year with a clean slate. The symbol that Adolf Hitler assigned to us during a time of struggle is not what we would like to be reminded of on the day of our most holy celebration, especially not by a reliable source such as the news. In addition to offending the Jewish people, uneducated viewers of WGN-TV will see this star, find it socially acceptable and continuously use it to represent the Jews. This is not the right direction. However, the news station issued a formal apology hoping to repent for their own sins and starting their new year off with a fresh slate. In public relations, sometimes an apology is all that can be said. I feel that there is not much more for the news to do.

  39. Sara Fox

    The VW CEO is extremely cowardly for resigning immediately after such a huge scandal hit the fan. It is unfortunate that the rest of the company is left to deal with this blow to their once trusted name. Of course an apology is in order, but VW will still have to make major changes if they wish to stay in business, including some kind of public proof that this problem has been fixed. If they cannot do this, the company will go under for sure. A simple apology will not suffice when it comes to people’s safety.

    In regards to the other PR crisis mentioned in this blog post, I do think an apology is necessary, however I do not know what else could be done in addition. This, in comparison to the VW scandal, seemed like a very honest mistake. More research should have been done and if anything, the station could make some kind of public promise to do more research when it comes to what they are putting on the air, but since this was not done to intentionally disrespect the Jewish community, it seems like an apology is really all that can be done.

  40. Jeff Lansky

    I agree with some of the earlier comments that I never thought of comparing PR to religion before. It is no surprise to me that the VW CEO would resign after the reports of the faulty emission tests became public. In Winterkon’s apology he vowed that this manipulation of tests must never happen again, but VW is still suffering from it as their stock value has dropped. The story of the WGN-TV news team airing an offensive image showed a serious lapse of judgement. WGN should have checked into the history of the image multiple times before airing it. Despite this error, WGN did the right thing by apologizing and admitting their mistake.

  41. A. Murphy

    I agree with some of the previous statements. How can the VW CEO be part of the changes he is suggesting if he is no longer part of the organization? Is his resignation just from the CEO position or from the entire VW organization as a whole? Have they deemed him unfit to be their CEO and he resigned in response or did he just step down from that position only to take up a lower level position and truly make the changes that he is speaking about?

    Now, when it comes to using offensive images on television, are they seriously saying that everyone who looked at that image and the headline for the piece were totally clueless to the events surrounding the image? Really? Either they have no vetting process for double checking people’s work before it goes on the air or the people at the station need a SERIOUS history lesson. Either way, changes need to be made and while an appology is a sufficient start, it needs to be followed up with action. Preferably evidence of their historical knowledge or evidence of their adequacy in performing their jobs.

  42. azachar1

    Hi Professor Morosoff,

    I want to start off by saying a big thank you! I am Jewish and it was really great that you were able to incorporate ideas of Yom Kippur and lack of Holocaust knowledge into this blog post.

    It is ironic that the CEO stepped down on Yom Kippur. VW has a lot to apologize for and a lot of actions to take to win back public trust. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have seen an article about VW in my newsfeed since the scandal first broke out. I discussed it with my parents while I was home for Yom Kippur and we all agreed that this company messed up very badly. I think so much of how they handle this situation will determine the fate of their company. If I were VW, I would start acting fast because people are really upset right now. The “I’m sorry” method isn’t going to cut it in this instance.

    And I am really appalled by the news station’s lack of Holocaust education. One thing I am very passionate about is making people aware of genocides and genocide prevention. Being Jewish and seeing that some producer thought it was okay to put the yellow Jewish star on the screen is just horrible.

    I think you are very right that PR practitioners need to have a good understanding of their audience and a general knowledge of subjects. That’s why I am very glad to have taken a variety of courses as a liberal arts major at Binghamton. These courses have helped me become a more well-rounded individual.

    And finally….yes apologies are not enough in most instances. As my dad always likes to say, “actions speak louder than words.”

  43. joebarone28

    In a way, it could seem as if the former CEO of VW was leaving his problems behind. The thing is – does he hold responsibility for the fines and lawsuits that are coming to his “former” company’s way? That is left to be said.

    However, when it comes to the news organization, there can be a number of explanations. Number one, sometimes people do not know history, albeit the Holocaust was one of the more known historical experiences in the world. Number two, the individual in charge of the graphics was careless and decided to pick the first picture that came up. Or Number three, which I doubt, it was done on purpose.

    Regardless of the reason, the station’s general manager did the correct thing by issuing a major statement of apology. Good Call.

  44. alexivelasquez

    This connection between religion and PR was something I never thought about, but this makes a lot of sense.The news station made a big mistake, as the graphic they used was something that could have easily been fact-checked before it went on air. On the other hand, I do not see how the VW CEO’s resignation will fix the problem–it seems like he is just running away from it. In both cases, Atonement is part of practicing good PR, as apologies are always necessary when mistakes like these are made.

  45. Nikita Hakels

    Both the issues are serious in their respective manner and should be handled with care. Firstly it wasn’t right for VW to do something like that, it is equivalent to cheating. It was an unfair act , they should apologize.
    SOn the other hand WGN-TV has to aplogize for making such a big mistake. This shows they lacked research qualities, before puttimg anything out for the public tensive research is required.

  46. codyrdano

    Stories like the one about the television station only support the fact that to be a good PR professional you need to know history. Even just keeping up with the daily news is a great way to keep your self out of hot water like this.

  47. Rebecca Haines

    I was a bit confused when I read that the CEO of Volkswagen promised his buyers a change when he resigned. If he resigned, how can he make any changes? That makes me think that he might actually know something about the false emissions even though he said he did not. For WGN-TV, it is just embarrassing for the station that they used that symbol without even researching it. Someone at that station should have at least thought to check it and make sure it was correct. As for the apology, I do believe that it was very genuine and well said. Considering the fact that they did not know the symbol was offensive, the apology was necessary even if it was a complete accident.

  48. caprice oliver

    This was a very interesting article for discussion. Volkswagen was expected to first apologize for the intentional deception of customers. The resignation of CEO Martin Winterkorn was definitely expected, and I believe was the first step in atonement for the public relations nightmare that is unfolding now. Now for the almost unforgivable mistake of the WGN-TV news station in Chicago, the ignorance is outlandish. The history of the Holocaust is sketched into the brains of our society, so to make that kind of mistake is blasphemous. The mistake is just as ludicrous as, a noose being hung without the relation of slavery being implied. Professionals in a field of broadcast communication should drown themselves in information before delivering such a powerful message and symbol. The apology from WGN-TV was the first step of many to take place for atonement.

  49. Casey Lamkin

    This blog post was very shocking to me. I hadn’t heard of any of these stories before reading this post, and my first reaction is just disgust. The false official emissions tests, and the WGN-TV mistake were both unforgivable acts. I understand that what’s done is done and apologies were made but consequences must be inevitable at this point. The fact that the photo for the story made it by the producers is disgusting in itself, if you’re going to report news on something you better be well versed in the subject or at least educated. And the VW ordeal is just absurd, and the company should not have gotten away with it for that long. Atonement is an interesting factor to tie into these stories because from the PR damage control perspective, yes, and apology is necessary, but I’m curious as to what degree you have to swallow your pride and admit that there is currently nothing good to be said of the people involved in the situation.

  50. dannynikander

    Atonement is a great system for PR professionals. It shows that people/teams/companies/etc. can make mistakes and that they want to work towards being better. I think it builds a lot of trust between the public and the institution. Volkswagen handled their crisis very professionally and I think that is why they are not being completely torn apart in the media. The Chicago TV station similarly handled themselves professionally as they complied with viewers who were insulted by the image.

  51. emilyrwalsh

    This is very interesting because I have never thought of Yom Kippur and public relations as one in the same in terms of atonement. Now that I realize the connection, it is very true that the first step in PR crisis management is to apologize, then follow suit with change. The two examples of atonement that you used are very interesting and both differ from each other. I feel that Volkswagen said “I’m sorry,” but failed to show plans of how they will change. In the case of the news station, all they can do is apologize and promise to never have an issue like that again. It is an issue of knowing history and realizing when something is appropriate or not.

    Atonement is something that happens in our lives every single day, whether it be large or small. It is also something that has to happen in crisis management to take the right steps toward positive change. I feel that we should take our personal atonement and apply it to our professional lives. For example, we need to know when to apologize and how to properly apologize so that we can be the best PR professionals we can be.

  52. Victoria Reid

    I agree that making an apology is one of the first steps to take after a person or company makes a mistake, but I think that this apology has to be sincere and not just another statement released in an attempt to gain back trust. WGN-TV in Chicago did the right thing by apologizing, but, in all honesty, it was something that really shouldn’t have happened in the first place. While mistakes do happen, this was one that seems like it really should’ve never happen. Whoever was in charge of finding the photo obviously didn’t take much time or effort in doing so.

  53. Jack De Gilio

    It’s interesting to see how Yom Kippur and PR in a sense, can actually relate. I never would have thought of it in that perspective.

    Back on to the topic of the blog post, I’m actually surprised that a news station would not do their research before showing a picture that has such a negative connotation. Of course, the news station most likely learned their lesson afterward, but part of me is surprised that the mistake was even made in the first place because it seems to be way too careless of a mistake.

    The same could also be stated for Volkswagen as well. I’m not surprised that the CEO resigned after an event that negatively impacts the company. However, at the same time, I feel like jumping ship wasn’t actually the best idea. I can understand that maybe he thinks that him stepping down will help the company. However, Winterkorn seemed to take the easy way out by stepping down. He should have been accountable for the company’s mistakes and put the effort to fix the problem and hopefully change the image for Volkswaggen. In the end, it’s actually probably for the best that he stepped down, because maybe he just wasn’t cut out to be the CEO of the company after all, and maybe his successor will pick up the pieces that he left behind.

  54. jhlabella

    I feel that any huge organization that takes a fall such as these two is difficult to recover from. However I truly believe that in order to recover from such a messy situation there are necessary steps that must be taken. The way the an apology is issue and posted means a lot to the overall outcome. It also much be addressed by the appropriate individual in order for the apology to be sincere and heartfelt. Following that I feel that the organization then must stay transparent and honest.

  55. Sarah

    I completely agree, I think the news station failed terribly. The producers failed to proof read the work and this led to a crisis. I think the news station should be more attentive to what they post, and do a background check on each picture. After making a public mistake, an apology is the first way to correct the situation. I feel in order to gain your audiences respect back it has to be sincere. You can say you’re sorry but if you didn’t say the right thing it means absolutely nothing. Although it was nice that the new station stepped up to the plate and took the responsibility of their wrong doing.

  56. Judea Hartley

    I absolutely agree with the importance of atonement and the further actions that must be executed to handle a crisis. To start off, it is completely illegal for any car company to manufacture cars that will not exemplify accurate results while going under inspection. Inspections are necessary for any and all cars. This process enables the owner to determine what the car needs for successful operation. Therefore, any mechanical detail that is left out on purpose, will cause for a problem to erupt, not only for the owner but for the business! Furthermore, I think that public atonement should be given in any public disaster. As far as the news station in Chicago is concerned, I do believe that they were sincerely sorry for the offensive symbol that was displayed. Contrary, I also do believe that it is important for public relations specialist to dissect and study the content of their message/the current crisis to ensure accurate delivery. I think that atonement should be offered more. I believe that sincere atonement and actions to eliminate the same type of situations would really eliminate a lot of corruption, insensitivity, and falsification. On a different note, public atonement is still needed for Ahmed Muhammad, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and several others. These were people who suffered from police brutality or ”police insensitivity”. This is a phrase that may make another feel better but their actions are brutal and not remorseful at all leaving people mentally, emotionally, and physically abused. Sadly, I believe that many leaders/corporations like the police force, are more concerned with power, authority, and ego and not about what matters most; how one impacts another.

  57. Abby Drapeau

    I think this case with the news station really shows how important it is to study history. It just appears as though they googled a Jewish image and ran with it. With such a heavy past, they should have definitely done more research. It’s too easy to Google search something to be making that mistake.

  58. Martin Bradshaw

    This is a huge mistake on the part of this news network. It’s more than a small “oops” because a mishap like this could have very easily been prevented. In journalistic news networks, there is generally a system of editing, checking, and double-checking. This applies to the grammar, accuracy, and eloquence of the story just as much as it does to the visuals and other aspects of its presentation. This visual that accompanied this story seems as though it was not cleared by anyone (seeing how egregious of an error it was). This mistake would require more than just an apology, there should be actions taken to prevent this from occurring again. Seeing as I don’t know much about the quality or history of the network and/or its employees, it would be difficult for me to recommend that the responsible parties be let go. However, I believe this would certainly call for those at fault to be reprimanded. The network should also start enforcing stricter, more effective policies involving checking and editing before stories are made public in the future.

  59. ChloeLauraDale

    Apologizing after a mishap is certainly important, but I think some companies could do with using more care in the first place. If you’re a successful car manufacturing company making loads of money, why on earth would you risk losing all you’ve ever worked for by trying to scam the public? I think VW should have had more pride and considered the consequences before taking such a huge gamble. It’s the same with WGN-TV. Any company delivering news surely has to take more precaution to ensure the news is accurate and unoffending- this includes the visuals. Negligence and ignorance should never be an excuse, just like greed should never interfere with a company’s ethical values.

  60. Emily Green

    It is absolutely no excuse that a news network would make that mistake. As a network that is relied on for news stories, they need to know he explicit details of important historical events so that they do not make mistakes like this. The network runs the risk of losing thousands of viewers over this. If I were a Jewish person watching that news broadcast, I would be offended to and would not want to watch it again. As for the CEO of VW resigning, I do not think it will be enough to fix the company. He most likely did not know about what was going on with the computers in the cars. Still, the public may blame him as the CEO and his decision to step down could bring the company a step closer to fixer their mistake. At the same time, this situation was probably just a large headache for the CEO and stepping down helped not only the company, but it probably helped him get away from the stress of it all.

  61. audrathorsen

    I find it interesting that the CEO of VW resigned after stating “this manipulation must never happen again”. How is supposed to make a sincere apology and basically promise the people involved that this will never happen again when he resigned? It makes VW look worse because it makes their apology seem insincere and not even their employees are willing to stick behind them. As for WGN-TV in Chicago using the wrong symbol, is just flat out embarrassing and makes their news station look carless. I find it odd that no one knew that that symbol was offensive. Considering they obviously didn’t know, I do think the apology was sincere and they can look at this as a learning experience to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

  62. boxofficesam

    As Craig Ferguson said on Saturday night, there’s this little thing called FACT CHECKING! No one cares anymore about whether a story is true or not, they care about getting the story and getting it out first. Lately I just feel like the media has not been as helpful to this nation as it needs to be. The news should not cause riots and divide us rather it should united us as a country no matter where we come from or who we are.

  63. Katherine Hammer

    I think the comparison of Yom Kippur and public relations was very insightful. I have never thought of it that way but it provides us with what we must do to ensure that a crisis will rarely happen. I agree that people have to know history and make sure they know what is going to be displayed to the public to avoid such situations as the Chicago news station. I really enjoyed this post.

  64. Kylie Todd

    Within the first paragraph of this blog, I had already learned something. I did not know the idea behind what Yom Kippur was.
    Regarding the scandal that’s happening with Volkswagen, I have a hard time believing Martin Winterkorn had no knowledge of what was happening with the software that was put into cars. He’s the CEO!!
    In addition, the newscast about Yom Kippur and having that particular symbol was a HUGE mistake made by WGN-TV. Though in my opinion their apology seemed heartfelt, as you pointed out, whoever is in charge of the story (whatever that story may be) DEFINITELY needs to know the important background of what they are writing/reporting about to avoid mistakes like these.

  65. Cass Lang

    I never thought of comparing PR to religion before but you always seem to come up with really interesting and refreshing ways to keep PR themes and current events relevant! This was a really good read.

  66. jheiden1

    Apologies are good when needed, but it seems people and companies rely on them more than they should. Instead of using an apology as a crutch for a mistake, why not try harder to avoid the mistake in the first place? The station in Chicago could have avoided the embarrassment with a simple google search. Now the station is not only apologizing for being offensive, but also for being ignorant. Being more careful is a better mindset to have.

  67. Dale Ciampa

    i do agree that the first step in addressing the offensive label and VWs issues is to directly tell the public a legitimate apology. WGN-TV in Chicago needs to come out and just apologize and say they didn’t realize what they posted and no intent at all of trying to relate this back to any relation to the Jews in Germany.
    The VW CEO did resign after the whole country heard about the faulty emission tests. I think he needed to of address the issue and problem first before resigning and leaving the company. Once he decided to leave as CEO it left a lot of shareholders and carowners questionable about his direction in the first place. I think if any CEO wants to leave a company after a default then he needs to look to look to benefit for the future of the company. Winterkon should have addressed his reason for resigning better for the future benefit of the company. A real CEO lives up to what has happened and is honest and shows shareholders and car owners what is going to happen in the future to prevent this and why it was done in the first place. Winterkon leaving immediately only leaves every one up to question his position and why he reacted to quickly. Ignoring the media only seems to have effected him negatively.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.