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



A tradition worth fighting for

A tradition worth fighting for: applying a consensus-oriented public relations approach to the New Coke incident of 1985. In the case of post-crisis New Coke, Coca-Cola demonstrated its intention to right its strategic communication error – taking away the people’s Coke and replacing with a new product. When the public protested, they took a consensus-oriented public relations approach, following the concepts of Habermas. They took a major misstep in strategic communication and used it as an opportunity to regain the trust of its public. By ensuring intelligibility, truth, truthfulness and legitimacy, they got their public involved and on board and together, Coca-Cola and the people made the decision to bring back a mainstay of the American culture and lifestyle – Coca-Cola.

Please see references for this audio presentation at the bottom of this blog post.

In creating this presentation on New Coke, I learned much more about what went into the marketing decision of 1985 than I knew at the time of its occurrence. Back then, as a 13-year-old, I was simply flabbergasted. I couldn’t understand how a company could take away something the world and I depended on and throw it away for an alternative. Frankly it seemed sacrilegious.

In researching this project, however, I came to understand the reason Coke did what it did. By using scientific data from objective taste tests to try to determine why they were losing market share, Coke decided to change its formula to be competitive in the marketplace. Personally, I see their strategy as fear-based. To change the fundamental being of a company’s product to compete, more that to adapt to changing times, strikes me as inauthentic.

When it was announced that Old Coke was returning in the form of Coca-Cola Classic, I can only say that I felt huge relief. Although I have learned that many preferred New Coke, I did not. There is a theory that Coke planned the whole replacement of Coke with New Coke to hide the fact that the taste of Coca-Cola would be changing due to a switch to high fructose corn syrup as the sweetener for the product. Whether this is true or not, original Coke as it is produced today tastes well enough to satisfy me.

While crafting this project I gained new perspectives and great appreciation for the work of sociologists, such as Jurgen Habermas, whose work is helping to guide postmodern public relations best practices. I was happy to see in my research that not only did the Coca-Cola Company listen to its public, they seemed to take them seriously and engage in discourse that resulted in a collaborative decision for the direction of the company.

Regarding media production and the creation of this post. I learned more about audio editing doing this project and realize that I am beginning to get more comfortable with it. I have gained confidence and skill that a few years ago I would never have thought I could have. I look forward to doing more with audio editing and podcasting. The most complicated part is getting the timing just right. And I have learned there are two ways to edit. One is on paper before recording a presentation, and the other is in the audio app. In this presentation I used a combination, editing in the two media. I have more work to do on timing and much to learn about audio editing.

For this project, however, I did not have to push myself much beyond my previous skills in media production, but since beginning the Master of Communication program at Queens, I have had to challenge my media production skills in numerous ways. I can build websites, blog, even amateurishly produce magazines and edit video, but I could not use PowerPoint proficiently or an audio program, such as Audacity. Now, after several classes at Queens, I have learned, for the sake of being able to produce assignments, to record audio and export it, link it to Power Point, time slides and export as a movie, thereby producing a video presentation, viewable online. This is a great skill to have and I look forward to polishing it and using it in the future to create online presentations and online courses on dream work.


Allen, F. J. (1995). Secret formula: how brilliant marketing and relentless salesmanship made Coca-Cola the best-known product in the world. New York: HarperBusiness.

Burkart, R., (2009). On Habermas: understanding and public relations. In O. Ihlen, B. van Ruler, & M. Fredriksson (Eds.), Public Relations and Social TheoryKey figures and concepts. (pp. 141-165) New York: Routledge.

CBS Evening News [CBS Evening News]. (2015, April 23]. New coke: coca-cola’s 77-day product disaster . Retrieved from https://youtu.be/TqvTMPY8Q_8

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

McArthur, J. A. (2014). Planning for strategic communication: a workbook for applying social theory to professional practice. Atascadero, CA: CreateSpace.

Whistler, S. [Today I Found Out]. (2016, December 27). Why coke tried to switch to new coke . Retrieved from https://youtu.be/CJt9JkqQYeI

Employees first, customers second

A case of divine reversal? Turning the world of management upside-down.

employee-first BOOKEmployees first, customers second. For anyone coming from a retail background such a phrase is a difficult one to swallow. Particularly for a local business, how could one imagine not doing everything possible to keep customers happy, ensuring every possible penny would come one’s way? But for Vineet Nayar, author of the book Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down by Vineet Nayar, there is a strategy involved for the health and wholeness of both company and client. Nayar posits that the gifts and insights employees have to offer no only serve as catalysts of growth for a company, but that the openness required by management to observe, absorb and listen to those insights, incorporating them into the company ethos, create trusting and secure relationships with clients.

Nayar is the CEO of one of India’s largest IT suppliers, HCL Technologies (HCLT). He started at a smaller, entrepreneurial unit of HCLT (p.3) and was later asked to head the entire $700 million-dollar company because of his enthusiasm and passion for offering the best. If one were to apply the theories of Putnam (2009) to public relations in the case of HCLT, we understand the innovative leadership style of Nayar. Heading a company that was doing well but growing stagnant in a competitive and stressful economy in 2005 and 2008, respectively, Nayar’s vision for growth was a radical one – basing customer relations in trust and transparency.

Anyone who seeks to understand messages and audiences in the realm of strategic communication may have just shuddered at the thought of such transparency. Traditional public relations as a field once consisted of a company’s presenting a message to its publics and working to persuade them that it was true. The post-modern realm of public relations is more dialogical and participatory, understanding that publics help form message as much as do institutions. Nayar, whether or not a student of public relations, has a modern approach to managing companies: in his case a large, international, firm. Yet his theories can be applied to institutions of all sizes. Nayar’s approach is to take the responsibility for change from the office of the CEO to the employees in what he calls the “value zone.”

The definition of audience shifts in Nayar’s description of his four-pronged method for transformation (1. Mirror, mirror; 2. Trust through transparency; 3. Inverting the organizational pyramid and 4. Recasting the role of the CEO). The audience shifts from being the institution’s clients to being made up of its employees. In turn, the CEO becomes the audience of the employees.

Central to Nayar’s book is the redefinition of management, summed up in the Employees First, Customers Second (EFCS) concept. Nayar proposes that in order to remain competitive in the modern market, the traditional, hierarchical pyramid of classical management must be turned upside-down. Though he has no one formula, transparency and providing information to employees plays a large role in fostering dialogue and innovation. Nayar describes each institution as an individual that must do what is in its own best interest. And the way to discern what that interest is? – communication, dialogue and conversation with the company’s employees. After being convinced to become CEO of HCLT, Nayar knew he must do it his own way and set out on an unknown path to innovation. Beginning by traveling to the company’s global offices and listening to those involved from the ground up, seeking their insights and inspirations on what was wrong with the company and what deserved celebration.

Nayar’s discovery is that the employees he considers to be in the “value zone,” those not only in a position to see things management can’t see, but those who have the passion to transform and invest themselves in the company, should be the resource valued above all else. Anyone can develop IT products and anyone can offer services. But most companies cannot provide full-service solutions that include hundreds of invested people, willing to provide transparency and offer clients their best talent, care and attention.

Employees First, Customers Second is a resource to be valued by communications strategists in all fields. As communications is understood more and more as the organizing principle of communities, publics, organizations and companies, communications professionals are increasingly sought for leadership positions. If called into such position, Nayar’s book provides a four-fold strategy (with flexibility to add components and cycle through them in an order best adapted to the individual company) from which a leader can enter the scene and begin to understand what makes an institution relevant in today’s public relations climate.

A resource applied in the book that applies to all seeking to build a communications strategy is Nayar’s understanding of the point A, point B continuum. Nayar concedes that most would acknowledge that a straight line exists connecting point A to point B. This line must be traveled to get from one to the other. Many companies and employees of companies think that they understand what point A is, but admit they don’t know where or what point B is. But what if we hold up a mirror in organizations in which we work and realize that not only are we unsure of the definition of point B, but we no longer can define our current point A? Nayar demonstrates that point A is not stationary, not a thing of the past; it is a thing of the present.

To build relationships with others (in this case, our customers) we must first understand ourselves through reflection and contemplation. Hence the notion of holding up the mirror on a regular basis. Holding up mirror and facilitating conversation often can help a strategist discern the ever-shifting point A so that point B might become a thing of clarity. Particularly for institutions with historical precedent (we’ve always done things the way we’ve done them), reevaluating point A is a critical step in creating a communications strategy. It is a form of self-orientation in the fields of competition in which a company finds itself.

Communications strategists, with the help of Nayar’s practices, can try to convince the management of the companies they consult to shift responsibility from the CEO to the company’s most valuable resource – its employees, the transformers with vision and passion. Tapping into this resource may not be an easy process Nayar claims it will allow authenticity to arise, creating bonding capital among teams in the company and bridging capital with the companies’ clients, who were also later invited into conversation. There is risk involved in being vulnerable in dialogue, but the risk is such that a communications professional can embrace. Taking the risk of transparency opens the company to wider inspection, both from the public and from the employees within. Nayar uses the metaphor of large glass windows in Amsterdam (p.68) to illustrate this point. The bigger the window, the cleaner it must be kept to gain credibility, and the more can be seen.

In the end, the collaboration and transparency Nayar proposes, coupled with the credibility trust that builds among employees, builds trust with an organization’s clients. Slowly but surely, for Nayar, HCLT’s clients began to see the benefits of engaged, thinking and contributing employees. HCLT began to win bigger clients and again become competitive in the global market. There is rightly fear of the former status quo returning with success, but because of the cyclical nature of Nayar’s practice, the mirror is discernment is regularly held up, inviting old and new employees into the conversation.

Communications strategists should read Nayar’s book in order to instantly understand where the most valuable resource of a company lies – in its employees. Like Nayar as CEO, communications consultants, as a result of reading his book, can understand a paradigm of listening and dialogue that celebrates communication as an organizing principle and helps a company determine the true publics to which its public relations work should be directed.

Nayar, V. (2010). Employees first, customers second turning conventional management upside down. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Creative monastery in the business world

Are you looking for ways to make your business relevant and effective? Are traditional business models and workplace protocol weighing you and your employees down? I can help. Let’s work together to set goals for your business that express your creativity, give you a competitive edge and build a systems environment. Your company will become integrated in community both inside and outside the office. Your business will be an important part of the “global village” (McLuhan, 1964) (Eisenberg, Goodall, and Trethewey, 2013, p. 98).

In the vein of the work of Peter Senge (1990), you’ll take the time to develop a learning organization that takes a holistic, personal approach to create flexible mental models enabling your team to be innovative through a shared vision (Eisenberg et al. 2013).

There are three keys ways we’ll use creativity for innovation to make your business stand out:

  1. You’ll build a team of brand ambassadors who will integrate the philosophy of your company into greater community, building a web reaching out into your city and in the global village.
  2. You’ll create a vital community within your company that interacts productively and enthusiastically within, as well as outside your environment to create an organized open system (Eisenberg, et al., 2013). Beginning with self-reflection (Eisenberg et al., 2013) and personality studies, you’ll reach a place where information and innovation will flow throughout the interdependent departments of your workplace, community and digital media resources.
  3. You’ll create measurable goals for expanding your business using a life coaching model for attaining them while employing creativity and innovation. You will not get stuck in a box. After all, goals are dreams with deadlines (Hill, 2017) Your process for growth will be organic, flowing in and out of your company’s structure in a relationship of giving and receiving.

According to social psychologist Karl Weick (1979), nothing is as effective as making sense of the uncertainties in the environments that affect your business than organizing through interaction (Eisenberg, et al., 2013). Let’s get started. I’ll work with your team on learning about themselves using the Enneagram personality system (Kale, 2003). Once your team understands how they interact with each other, they’ll take that knowledge to build brand ambassadors, quietly integrating your name into the community. This work will include staying current on best social media practices, engaging the community in conversation (Honeybook, 2017). Finally you’ll learn how to ask questions – in the community and by coaching your team so they can coach each other into building and implementing a creative and effective shared vision that can change the world.


Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2013). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (7th Edition). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 

Honeybook. (2017, September 07). 3 Tips for Creating Engaging Instagram Content. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from https://www.honeybook.com/risingtide/3-tips-creating-engaging-instagram-content-independently-algorithm-changes/

Kale, S. H., & Shrivastava, S. (2003). The enneagram system for enhancing workplace spirituality. The Journal of Management Development, 22(4), 308-328. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.queens.edu:2048/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/216299847?accountid=38688

Napoleon Hill Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/napoleonhi152852.html

HR in the monastery

Although the Human Resources organizational management movement didn’t exist in the Middle Ages, I like to think that the seeds of it were alive in some ways in monastic life – everyone motivated to work toward a common goal, the bringing of the Kingdom of God to earth; everyone cared for, nurtured in community, and encouraged to do work that fit their talents. The true Human Resources model relies on satisfying relationships, appreciation, collaboration and the ability to self-actualize within an organization (Eisenberg, Goodall & Threthewey, 2013). Today’s HR departments should be able to help an organization fulfill such an ethos of quality, collaborative community.

I don’t believe today’s HR practices live out the ideologies of the Human Resources Approach of 1960s and 70s America. The employees at our state university, for example, must abide by state-directed HR policies, which have become legalistic. In such a large institution, their purpose is to make hiring and firing guidelines clear and to provide support for employees and the institution when there are disputes. HR at the university is charged with oversight of compliance of policies. Their job, primarily, is to protect the university.

What HR does for the university is often contradictory to allowing the hiring of the best talent. A candidate who is smart, innovative and has years of experience in the work world is denied a job at the university for not having the right degree, or falling short on years of experience in higher education (even if just by months). Someone with the right master’s degree with the minimum number of years of experience in higher education can get a job in a department in which they have no experience because they fit the bill. That person may be inexperienced in say, the work of the registrar’s office, could even be unmotivated or lack emotional intelligence. But they fit the requirements on paper.

It seems that today’s HR often lacks attention to the “human” side of “human” resources. There isn’t balance between creativity and constraint in this field. Furthermore, state jobs don’t pay well. That is a big enough inhibitor to managers’ ability to hire the best. Do they really need more such restrictions placed upon them regarding hiring those who can serve their offices most effectively? What suggestions would you have for improving HR departments ability to enhance the “human?”


Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2013). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (7th Edition). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 

The bishop’s mitre

Today’s American organizational landscape is arguable still very much a top-down model. From large corporations, to factories, to government structure and hierarchical churches, the pyramid-like shape of the bishop’s mitre first the classical management style of many organizations. Although the entrepreneurialism of the 21st century allows many to be self-employed, self-employment today often falls under a classical management style. Companies, such as Uber, allow people the freedom to work when they want to, but offer few rewards to keep morale high.

Classical management does still have a viable place in today’s organizations. Goals that require a tightly run ship, such as professional kitchens, military engagements, and volunteer efforts like those currently deployed to provide disaster relief and rescue in the wake of two major hurricanes, thrive on a strict flow-chart of top-down leadership and willing participants (employees or volunteers).

The Episcopal Church relies on a hierarchical structure that is descended from the Catholic Church. The beginnings of the Anglican Church (The Episcopal Church being a later branch-off from it) first lie in King Henry VIII’s declaring himself, instead of the Pope, the head of the Church. One ruler, in essence, was exchanged for another. Over the centuries, The Anglican Church has maintained the hierarchical structure of its origins.

The Episcopal Church, on the other hand is set up in a somewhat democratic model. The rules that govern the Church are set up in the Episcopal Church Canons. General Convention meets every three years to make any needed changes to the Constitution or the Canons, to hold elections for office and to pass resolutions.

On the local level, the rector (head priest) heads the parish who rules in concurrence with a parish vestry.The parish is with the jurisdiction of a diocese which is supervised by an elected bishop. The General Convention is made up of representatives sent from the diocese. Priests serve under bishops and are subject to the canons (laws) of the Church, the discernment of the bishop and the local canons of the executive council of the diocese (geographic grouping) in which they are serving.

The Episcopal Church government is composed of two branches – the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. Unlike representatives in the U.S. Government, the bishops and deputies are called to vote their according to their consciences and not necessarily according to the will of the people.

The Catholic model, from the Middle Ages, mimics the scientific management theory of Frederick Winslow Taylor in its efforts to control the behavior and actions of the people via the moral order (Eisenberg, Goodall & Tretheway, 2013, p.68). The Anglican model relies on Henri Fayol’s centralization of decision making and respect for authority, the authority being the monarch (Eisenberg, et al., 2013, p. 72). The Episcopal Church at its best embodies the best aspects of Max Weber’s (Eisenberg, et al., 2013, p.75) bureaucratic model, following set governance but embracing enchantment and mystery. At its worst, the machine is used to further the goals of those in power within a parish, a diocese or The Episcopal Church head offices. I would argue that the administrative side of offices within The Episcopal Church uses a classical management style that is in conflict with the spiritual ethos of the Church itself.

Classical management in offices within The Episcopal Church keeps the machine running in an organized way, maintains and orderly and transparent, safe house. It also has the potential to block passion, spirit, and squash the creativity of the individual wishing to achieve a calling and self-actualization within the Church. Church staff cannot be considered as less than or not needing to achieve self-actualization. Because church members in The Episcopal Church are part of the discussion of the ongoing life of the church, so should staff be. Good management within parishes assures the vitality of a congregation using a participative model of self-discovery of God’s call in one’s life.

Former Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli revitalized the company with strict militaristic-style management. This method is not workable for Church employees. The Episcopal Church ideally balances creativity and constraint, using its legislation and canons as guard rails while allowing for the creativity and passion of its people and clergy. How can the administrative offices honor the aspects of classical management that give it structure while not ignoring the human resources and relational aspects that give it life?


Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2013). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (7th Edition). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 

“Renovating Home Depot.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 6 Mar. 2006, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2006-03-05/renovating-home-depot. Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.

“Episcopal Church Structure and Organization.” Episcopal Church, 23 Dec. 2016, http://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/episcopal-church-structure-and-organization. Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.

Can’t see the mountain for the trees

Today I am posting a link to my final paper presentation for the course Communicating Mindfully. In it, I use the theory of distance in interpersonal relationship as a tool for relational success in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The paper focuses on the conflict between Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine can’t see the glorious and beautiful mountain that is Elizabeth Bennet for focusing too much on Elizabeth’s personal life, her social status, and the misbehavior of her family – the trees. Had she employed proper, healthy distance from the beginning of her relationship with Elizabeth, things might have turned out differently. Maybe there’s still time. If Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy, she will be equal to Lady Catherine if not greater. There is a chance for them to begin again as aunt and niece. I hope you enjoy!