One of the axioms of crisis management is that your ability to survive a crisis is two-thirds what people thought of you before the crisis happened. This truism will provide little comfort to the cruise industry which is battling a rear-guard action in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster.
Both Carnival, the holding company of the Costa Cruises, and the cruise industry’s trade body have been criticised for their weak reaction. Carnival’s PR strategy ‘wasn’t quick, it wasn’t specific, it wasn’t reassuring,’ according to one industry consultant.
Steve Dunn, Executive Chairman of the travel PR and marketing agency Brighter Group, said last Monday that ‘for 30 years cruise holidays have been the golden child of the travel industry with sales continuing to climb. This accident has caught them on the back foot and it has amazed me that nobody from the industry, especially the Passenger Shipping Association, has stepped forward to defend cruises and their safety record.’ According to PRWeek, Burson Marsteller has been brought in to deal with the fallout.
What measures should Carnival and the cruise industry take to stem the tide of bad press? Much of the answer depends on the reputation of the company and industry prior to this current crisis. ‘Reputation maintenance’ (planning, building, measuring, adjusting and repairing) on a consistent basis prevents ‘reputation breakdown’. It prevents panic from breaking out among communications teams (and boards). It puts the current crisis into context and allows companies to ride out a temporary storm. For more on crisis management, hear the comments of Peter Jones, former Head of PR for British Airways and Corporate Communications Director at BUPA http://www.mediatrack.com/about-us/team.