What they said
The automotive industry is experiencing seismic change. We want to engage our teams, Retailers and suppliers with the journey we are on and ensure they understand our vision and strategy and how important they are to us. We need to be clear about the role they all need to play; collectively and individually. We have great product, both in the market and coming soon and we need to motivate everyone to play their part in our journey.
Volkswagen UK is the country’s leading automotive manufacturer.
Its cars are respected and cherished, but lately it has experienced some ups and downs. The emissions crisis of 2015 had a huge impact on customer trust, the brunt of which was born by Retailers on the front line.
This is the story of the role that a properly structured, strategically aligned internal communications strategy played in the brand’s recovery, helping 12,000 passionate individuals rediscover their love for Volkswagen and become excited about the future.
What we did
The concept of our strategic narrative is familiar to Volkswagen; we have worked with this client for many years.
So we were close to the plan which emerged quickly at the end of 2015, to reach out to affected customers and invite them to bring their vehicles into Retailers to have a technical measure applied.
This presented Retailers with the chance to meet potential new customers, but under difficult circumstances.
In the first instance, we developed a pre-emptive series of workshops alerting Retailers to the kinds of reaction they might expect, and co-creating a range of responses. From there it was crucial that we evolved Retailers back to business-as-usual as quickly as possible, restoring their confidence in the brand so that they could pass this on to customers.
We built the plan with the internal communications and events team at Volkswagen, using every available medium:
internal and Retailer events
monthly closed circuit broadcasts
intranet and social media
internal office branding
The trick here was to weave a consistent message through every touchpoint so that Volkswagen management appeared completely in control at all times, clear and precise, with a solid strategy for recovery and growth.
We set everything against the context of the Volkswagen Story, which we have translated into film and which is played at the start of every conference and large scale meeting.
We report steadily on progress and recognise outstanding performers. We ask for feedback and respond honestly. We design every engagement with specific objectives and outcomes, and we measure everything.
What happened next
The brand has recovered steadily and is now anticipating an exciting future.
We are fortunate that the cars themselves are class-leading and that the brand produces outstanding marketing campaigns. But the recovery would not have been as powerful without the actions of Retailers to restore trust in their customers.
We help them develop their skills and confidence with an ongoing programme of events and workshops that together support the overall strategy of the business. Messages cascade down from the leaders and they ladder up from the operating departments via direct feedback which we analyse and report on.
Everyone in the business knows the story, the strategy, the objectives and the role they must play. They know where to get the information they need to enhance their own abilities and they’re motivated to do so by the reward and recognition processes in place and which we communicate.
We’re not completely out of the woods just yet, but there’s a clear path to profitable growth that Retailers tell us is exciting and a good reason to continue their commitment to Volkswagen.
What we learned
It’s important to bring the high level strategic messaging into the workplace so that everyone might be inspired and motivated to contribute to the journey.
But it’s equally important to develop ‘bottom up’ strategies and messages so that colleagues have their contributions validated and feel a sense of co-ownership of the strategic direction.
Content is king: we work hard to make sure our content is engaging and consistent across messages and media. Also that it aligns closely with the overall strategy; relating the activity of individuals and departments to the overall strategic direction of the company is critical if we are to engage employees in helping achieve strategic goals.
Keep it simple: we write in the simplest possible form. We avoid using company-speak and use only human language.
Employees are key to a brand's reputation; if employees understand vision and values, and the story tells helps them act accordingly in their day-to-day jobs, then they will naturally pull together to execute the strategy.