Exxon Valdez, Gerald Ratner, Deepwater Horizon – all names that have become metonyms for corporate crisis. More recently, organisations such as PepsiCo and Microsoft, as well as large charities, have experienced crises of their own, through action by the public, employees or other stakeholders. As the epithet goes, trust takes years to build up but can be destroyed in an instant.
Typically many external and internal factors will influence the course that a crisis of trust takes; traditionally the prime audiences who are affected either directly or who influence its outcome are customers, the wider public, suppliers, investors and policy makers.
Employees play a more prominent role now thanks largely to social media, when reputations can change in a matter of seconds and stories go viral in an instant.
The supreme example of this was when around 100 Microsoft employees wrote a letter to the company’s CEO demanding that the firm cancel its contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement ‘immediately’. To put the influence of that letter into context, it was initiated by the actions of just 0.08% of Microsoft’s 124,000 employees.