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Designing Communication for Dialogue and Engagement: The Volkswagen Emission Scandal in Sweden
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics and Media.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics and Media.
2018 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Title: Designing Communication for Dialogue and Engagement

Authors: Christopher Bradson & Sofia Amanuel

Level: Master Thesis, 30p 

Keywords: Dialogue, Communication Design, Stakeholder engagement, Stakeholder communication, CSR communication

Background: The changed attitudes about the role of business in today's contemporary society alongside with globalization and the evolved media-information environment has enlarged the pressures on businesses in regards to how they should pursue profitability, while responding to demands about accountability that is motivated beyond financial gain. There is a need for a better understanding about communication choices and how these are perceived by intended stakeholders, in order to accelerate effective communication that initiates stakeholder engagement.

Research Questions:(1)How is Volkswagens communication design constructed in creating dialogue and engagement after a corporate scandal with its customers? (2)How does Swedish Volkswagen customers, in attribute of being external stakeholders, perceive the opportunities for engagement based on the four selected Volkswagen tools? What challenges does Volkswagen encounter when trying to create dialogue through these tools?

Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to examine how Volkswagen is creating opportunities for stakeholder dialogue and engagement through the theoretical perspective of communication design. By engagement we mean one-way or two-way communication, where stakeholders seek out or take part of communicative messages provided by the organisation.The study aims to examine how Volkswagen has designed their communication efforts, after being subjected to a global corporate scandal which proposed public demands for accountability and responsibility.

Theoretical Framework: The framework consists of Communication theories, giving considerable space to literature from theorists Aakhus and Bzdak whom developed the framework for communication design used in this study. Additionally, the framework includes a smaller selection of CSR, Public Relation, and Media research focusing on stakeholder engagement. 

Method: We have taken two parallel methodological pathways. The first method involved applying for elements provided by Aakhus and Bzdak framework for reconstructive design, while doing a thematic analysis on the media texts provided by the tools. The second research question was examined by conducting semi-structured interviews with Swedish Volkswagen stakeholders in order to gain a deeper understanding if Volkswagens communicative instruments were enabling engagement.  

Findings & Conclusions: Our study concludes that Volkswagen is showcasing constructs in their design that aims to reduce scepticism among stakeholders, addressing important issues for stakeholders, providing solutions and articulating progress in multi-stake issues. Wealso conclude that Volkswagens communication messages are conveyed in a calculated way, with a persuasive nature to create an identity of being a ‘corporate good citizen’.There is a complexity in terms of diminishing scepticism, since stakeholders are being more demanding in today's society, particularly after a corporate scandal such as the one Volkswagen has been subjected to. Stakeholders are becoming more aware that companies are dictating the dialogic discourse, which affects the communication design in what motives a company incorporates in their communication. We conclude that customers felt that the opportunities to engage with the company was fairly low, and highly depended on how they where processing the nature of the messages (intrinsic/extrinsic),as well as how they defined engagement from personal beliefs and values.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. , p. 81
Keywords [en]
Dialogue, Communication Design, Stakeholder engagement, Stakeholder communication, CSR communication.
National Category
Human Aspects of ICT Media Studies Communication Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-360376OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-360376DiVA, id: diva2:1247693
Educational program
Master Programme in Management, Communication and IT
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2018-09-13 Created: 2018-09-12 Last updated: 2018-09-13Bibliographically approved

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