Following one of this week’s top stories–the Carnival cruise ship Triumph’s disaster when a fire caused a power failure and subsequent awful sanitary conditions–I’ve sampled opinions on the company’s handling of the crisis:
PR executive Doug Elmets said in a CBS interview, “The self dubbed ‘most popular cruise line in the world’ has quickly become the opposite. It’s not just because of the conditions on board, but the company’s failure to offer a sincere apology and regular updates. It’s not really how you get into a crisis, it’s how you react once you’re there, and (their) initial reaction is pretty bad…(Carnival CEO Gerry) Cahill should have spoken out sooner.”
Huffington Post’s Catherine New wrote, “Even as Carnival deployed a host of communications strategies to do damage control as news from the Triumph spread, its efforts did more harm than good…’I can’t think of a worse way they could have handled it, whether as a maritime issue or as a PR issue,’ said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com. The company used its Twitter account to post frequent updates about the progress of the Triumph’s return to port. However, any social media missteps were quickly seized on both by frustrated passengers and the public, who watched the disaster unfurl in real time on television and the Internet.”
David Bartlett, a senior vice president at Levick, a strategic communications firm, wrote for CNN, “Crisis management experts know that customers and the general public are more likely to judge an organization by how it handles a problem than how it got into the problem in the first place…Carnival has to…position itself instead as part of the solution to the problems that caused the disaster.”
My opinion: I’m amazed that despite so many PR cases studies on crisis response, Carnival has been handling this so awkwardly. It may be a long time before the company can regain a positive reputation. Can a well-executed PR strategy help now? Would you still take a Carnival cruise? Your thoughts?