Once again journalists raked through the list of Qantas past incidents, some potentially serious and others minor. But in the aftermath of the A380 crisis anything adverse about the airline is news and everything damages reputation.
The same applies to beleaguered oil giant BP, recently rebuked by Norwegian safety authorities over a North Sea oil platform spill in September 2012. While the incident itself was relatively minor, it came after a North Sea platform fire in 2011; the notorious Deepwater Horizon fatal fire and environmental disaster in 2010; and the Texas City refinery disaster in 2005, which killed 15 workers.
Less dramatic, but equally damaging to reputation, is the cumulative effect of two fatal accidents and a catalogue of lesser safety incidents for Melbourne construction company Grocon.
In all of these cases the impact of a crisis is multiplied into longer-term reputation damage as incidents start to accumulate. As crisis commentator Jonathan Bernstein has written: “You have no cushion of goodwill to fall back on, no brand ambassadors to leap to your defence, and reporters know that any story where a tarnished reputation is being heaped with more mud is an easy sell to editors and readers.”
The multiplier effect is yet another risk from any crisis, and all the more reason to be properly crisis-prepared.