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Costa Concordia - What We Would Have Done

January 25, 2012

Before the shipwreck of Costa Concordia, Carnival Corp was seeing huge strides in overall sales and Wall Street numbers. Everything was looking up. Today, shares of Carnival have dropped significantly, according to PRWeek estimates that Carnival will lose more than $90 million in earnings in 2012 due to this event. Here’s what we would have done:


1. Be Quicker – In any situation where brand reputation is at stake, whether it’s on a small scale (Facebook comments) or grand scale (shipwreck), nothing beats timing. If a Fan leaves a horrible review on your Facebook page, the last thing that you want to do is delete that review, and the next to last thing you want to do is respond late. Immediate response times are crucial to avoiding reputation disasters. In the case of Carnival Corp, timing was everything, and they missed the mark. You cannot delete and avoid a disaster like this, but you can have strategies set up to respond quickly and compassionately.


2. Be Smarter – Quick response strategies are crucial for big brands. While small businesses have response guidelines for bad reviews on blogs or Facebook, so should big brands have for disasters like these. Being smarter means having the strategies and steps already in place should this kind of grand disaster happen. Brand marketers, advertisers, and PR team members should already know what they’re role will be when this happens. Whether that means a midnight meeting to get on the same page and roll out with the already conceived strategy, or it means following a strict set of steps already designed for this type of disaster, being ahead of the game and prepared for anything will save your brand.


3. Be Empathetic – Showing compassion and recognition is one thing, but displaying a genuine empathy towards the people who have suffered is quite another, and a very powerful thing. Nothing beats showing empathy. Nothing beats a true show of emotion for the situation. Take the example of a sports figure who blurts out a racial slur during a game. The next day, that sport figure will apologize; saying all the right things, but everyone knows he is not sorry. It’s the common case of the ‘unapology-apology,’ and it ends up making things much worse from a brand reputation management stance. If you don’t mean the apology, don’t say it and stay in the background while the disaster plays out.


4. Be Transparent – This brings us to our final tip; be completely transparent, honest, and visible to your fans and critics. Carnival CEO Micky Arison is taking a lot of heat for remaining out of the spotlight after this tragedy. He has not been seen or heard since the shipwreck, and many are saying that this is a sign of apathy, not empathy. His singular response via spokesperson is no better than a sports figure’s ‘unapology-apology.’ It’s distasteful, indifferent, and shows a great detachment from the tragedy. He might be greatly hurt by the tragedy, however if he, as the CEO, is not transparent and visible with his feelings he will come across as cold and unapologetic.


There are literally hundreds of things that Carnival should have done differently, and while we’ve only gone over the four most important aspects of brand reputation management, it’s crucial to sit down with a marketing expert before something like this happens. If you don’t have strategies set up, either small scale or large scale, to deal with reputation issues, talk to us today.