Wish me luck!

Applying Goffman to the VW Diesel Crisis of 2015

In preparing the below presentation, Applying Goffman to the VW Diesel Crisis of 2015, I learned that Volkswagen was reluctant to admit their failing at first. Once they did, things got better. What I realized was that if the company would have benefitted from having a strategic communication plan in place before the diesel crises. Had that plan used the four concepts of Goffman’s dramaturgic metaphor, including having the author, animators and principal on the same page, VW would have had the ability to understand how forces within the company were leading it down the wrong path.

Based on my personal experience with Volkswagen and being a business person myself, I would have liked to prevent another blow to my company’s market share in the U.S. In the early 2000s when Volkwagen made a comeback, their reputation tanked at least a little. The new cars were sub-par, often with numerous mechanical problems. I had friends who owned these new wagens and were so excited. And then they broke down. I had a new one and it kept breaking down. Many of us said we’d never buy from Volkwagen again. But we did. And I love my new car. (Wish me luck!)

After seeming improvement in the U.S. market, the last thing VW needed was a scandal like the diesel crisis. The interesting part is that it occurred over a kind of vehichle (diesel) that American’s aren’t very interested in anyway, at least not compared to Europeans. To me, having planned according to Goffman’s concepts could have prevented this crisis and would have helped VW in its true strategic goal of impression management to gain more of the American market share.

What I learned about media production in crafting this presentation ties in to Goffman’s dramaturgic metaphor. Impression management, framing, footing and face are all important in producing an effective product. I began this presentation with a completely different format from that below. It was flat and ineffective. I had to start over. I also had some technical difficulties that I don’t usually encounter with PowerPoint. What I had was sub-par, like my 2002 Jetta Wagen… Starting over caused me to lose time. But it was worth it. I learned a lot and produced a much more effective presentation.

I had to push past my comfort zone with production and learn new skills, primarily iMovie skills. I am used to using Adobe Premier Pro to edit video. When in my initial presentation, a short video clip failed to export from Premier (also unexpected for me), I did some research and decided to use iMovie. After the failure of my first presentation, which contained an audio narrative recorded with Audacity, PowerPoint slides, and a short video, I decided to record the whole thing on video.

That decision caused another set of circumstances. I didn’t have my “real” camera available to record the video. I thought surely I could record the video using my laptop’s camera. In researching that, I came up again with iMovie again. It didn’t work. The camera cut in and out as if I were recording on Skype. I had to give that up. I resorted to my iPhone, creating lighting kits out of lamps in my house for clearer lighting. I used my teleprompter app, which I had never used personally before. In the end, I learned that iMovie is a great substitute for PowerPoint. Although I don’t find it very intuitive and have to Google every move I make, I found that I could easily insert my PowerPoint slides, add different video clips and more. I hope you enjoy the presentation.


American Volkswagen owners angry over diesel emissions scam. (2015, September 27). Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://youtu.be/9peK3DnesDI

Boudette, N. E. (2017, November 01). Volkswagen Sales in U.S. Rebound After Diesel Scandal. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/business/volkswagen-sales-diesel.html

Hotten, R. (2015, December 10). Volkswagen: The scandal explained. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34324772

Ihlen, O., van Ruler, B., & Fredriksson, M. (2009). Public Relations and Social Theory: Key figures and concepts. New York: Routledge.

Joshi, P., & Hakim, D. (2016, February 26). VW’s Public Relations Responses and Flubs. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/02/26/business/volkswagen-public-relations-flubs.html

Painter C, Martins JT. Organisational communication management during the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal: A hermeneutic study in attribution, crisis management, and information orientation. Knowl Process Manag. 2017;24:204–218. https://doi.org/10.1002/kpm.1544

The VW emissions scandal – past, present and future | DW Documentary. (2017, August 15). Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://youtu.be/ds81qxg9p-I

Tom Kelleher on Volkswagen’s response to crisis. (2015, November 05). Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://youtu.be/9pvtWceX1po

Yale. (2015, December 18). The Crisis at Volkswagen. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://youtu.be/rvBtaACuDIk

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