Toyota, celebrated for engineering cars so utterly reliable that they seemed boring, endured revelations that its most popular models sometimes accelerated formysterious reasons. The energy giant BP, which once packaged itself as an environmental visionary, now confronts the future with a new identity: progenitor of the worst oil spill in American history.And the Wall Street icon Goldman Sachs, an elite player in the white-collar-and-suspenders set, found itself derided in Rolling Stone as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity,relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Last month, Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle federal securities fraud charges.
“These were real reputationalimplosions,” says Howard Rubenstein, the public relations luminary who represents the New York Yankees and the News Corporation. “In all three cases, the companies found themselves under attack over thevery traits that were central to their strong global brands and corporate identities.”
Image implosions, of course, haven’t been confined to the business world. The basketball wizard LeBron Jamesfound himself scorned as a narcissist after his nationally televised abandonment of Cleveland. Taped conversations of the Hollywood star Mel Gibson with his former girlfriend have secured him seeminglypermanent billing as The Worst Guy Ever.
But for members of the protective tribe known as the crisis management industry, the scandals capturing headlines in the corporate realm involve far higherstakes, threatening the lifeblood of global behemoths worth hundreds of billions of dollars. The calamities have served up a lifetime supply of case studies to be mined for lessons on best...