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Assessing Carnival’s Response to Crisis: Sink or Swim?

November 15, 2010
Carnival Splendor  by ecstaticist

Carnival Splendor by ecstaticist

Overall, Carnival Cruise Lines has done a great job managing the recent crisis that involved a fire aboard one of its luxury  ships, but as many PR pros know, it’s still too soon to abandon the fire extinguishers.

Background (In case you didn’t hear)
A week ago today, Carnival’s vessel,  Carnival Splendor, experienced a fire in an aft engine room. The flames killed the ship’s power leaving passengers and crew members marooned for three days with minimal food supplies, backed-up toilets and dark rooms.  Thursday offered sighs of relief after six tugboats returned the ship safely to the port of San Diego. Thankfully, there were no fatalities or serious injuries.

Praise

Appropriately, Carnival’s first concern was taking care of its guests and crew members.  Circumstances weren’t ideal on board, but passengers reported that the crew was excellent, and they felt the company was doing the best they could. Once passengers disembarked, Carnival provided hotel accommodations, ground transportation and flights home.

The cruise line was timely and transparent in keeping the public in the know, using Facebook and Twitter to quickly disseminate information.  Wisely, Carnival chose to postpone promotional contests on social media sites and focus on the crisis.

Another smart move was establishing a hotline that allowed worried family members to ask questions concerning loved ones stranded on the ship.

Earning the most attention is the candid blog of cruise director John Heald. In his posts he describes the drama that unfolded in great detail. Heald’s accounts are read with interest for being so human and honest.  Still, Heald’s blog is not an official statement from the company, and it’s important that Carnival directly make similar efforts.

Carnival is determined to make amends with passengers. As restitution, guests will receive a full refund and a voucher for a free cruise. The company is also taking care of its employees by paying them the salaries and gratuities they would receive if the ship was still operating.

Criticism

Carnival needed to make a strong statement on its personal website. Especially since this is a vehicle where the company controls its message. The company’s update on the crisis doesn’t stand out. I nearly missed the tiny link that directs site users to a little blurb that’s…well,…not very powerful. I guess I was expecting more empathy and videos of the CEO’s statements.

More could have been done in the social media realm. Loyal customers gave Carnival a lot of support on Facebook, but Carnival failed to engage in conversation with them. It’s too bad, because the beauty of social media is the ability to interact with the consumer.

Future

Carnival still has work to do. Beside countering media interviews with upset passengers, the company must continue communication and ensure safety. Passengers should be told of plans to advert a future crisis and address ways they will better control food rationing and other concerns should this unlikely incident occur again. Doing so should prevent ticket holders from canceling and encourage future bookings.

Carnival Crisis Victor

As a former wedding planner, I just had to share this story.

Kudos to the Ryde Hotel who seized the opportunity to piggyback on a national news story. When the hotel received word of a couple who was supposed to marry on the luxury liner, it leaped into action and offered to accommodate the last minute nuptials. Cathy Hartrich, hotel co-owner, assisted the couple with booking vendors at deeply discounted prices. The high school sweethearts wed yesterday. The centerpieces: balloons anchored by SPAM ,®  which was rumored to be served to guests aboard the ship.

Speaking of SPAM ,® I was really hoping they would construct a witty response to all the of attention their brand received.  Ideas are swooning through my head now.


Managing Your Brand’s Reputation Online

October 13, 2010

I was perusing the Internet today and came across the story of a disgruntled blogger. A PR agency, acting on behalf of a client, promised her certain rewards in exchange for posts on her blog . When the agency failed to follow through with its promises, she shared her frustration with her readers. As a result, more bloggers are spreading the news of the unreliable agency. The issue quickly reminded me that companies and individuals cannot afford to ignore online content that could possibly damage their brands and reputation.

Social media  gives the little guy a voice, and if the little guys is mad, it gives him the power to drag your name though the mud. Luckily, anyone can put an online reputation management program in action.

Own Your Name
To avoid impersonators, register your username. Many companies purchase all relevant domain names and those that could serve as potential gripe sites. Try visiting http://www.walmartsucks.com and you’ll find the site is managed by Melbourne IT, a digital services company hired to protect Walmart’s online image. Claim usernames on essential social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc.  before squatters and angry customers do.

Start Listening
Regularly track comments on the Internet in relation to your brand. Here are just a few free tools to get started.

  • Google and Yahoo Alerts notify you of news and information about your company. Set alerts for your brand, products, events, industry and employees.
  • Tweet Beep allows you to receive alerts by e-mail whenever a specific word or phrase is tweeted on Twitter.
  • Technorati is a real-time search for user-generated media (including weblogs) by tag or keyword.
  • With Back Type you can claim comments on blogs, find comments that mention a particular keyword and view all conversations from a particular post or article.

Learn and Evaluate
What’s being said about your organization? Who is saying it? How many people are saying it? Think about the impact negative comments will have on your brand. Asking these questions can help you decide how to respond. Negative comments also give insight to areas that require improvement and can help make your business better.

Act
Discover or create effective and efficient ways to comment on the information being published about you. Be actively involved and lead conversations about your brands.

Krystal Ball provides a great example of how to deal with a mess. Ball, a young woman running for Congress in Virginia, found herself in a pickle when scandalous photos from her past surfaced on the Internet. She immediately addressed the issue with a public appearance and blog post. Ultimately, she’s used the publicity garnered from the crisis as a platform to further her campaign.

There are more strategies to manage your online reputation including control of what appears in search rankings and creation of a forum so customers don’t feel the need to start their own. Agencies that use Cision can opt to utilize its reputation management software. If your company’s workload is too heavy, consider hiring a professional reputation management service. Remember, online reputation is not just a threat for companies; it’s an opportunity. So start taking advantage.

How long will Facebook appeal to 18-35 year olds?

September 23, 2010


An example of an Offlining e-card you can send to your friends

Back in July, Inside Facebook released a graph that showed negative growth for the demographic of 18-35 year olds. At the time, I couldn’t believe it. Now, my personal observations and experiences lead me to believe Facebook may continue to loose users in this demographic.

Falling into this age range myself, with every login, I notice more and more of my friends are missing from Facebook. More courteous friends give warning and announce their exits on their walls— “I’m deleting my account in five days. Take my number if you ever wish to speak with me again!”

The mutual reasons for deleting their accounts: lack of productivity and wanting their lives back.

I must admit, there are times when I login to Facebook to send one quick message to a friend, and before I know it, ka-bam, two hours have passed, and all I have learned is that Sally burned her tongue on her hot cocoa, and Mark broke up with Ashley (for the third time this week).

The drop in Facebook use could be attributed to campaigns like ‘Offlining, Inc.’ (www.offlininginc.com) . ‘Offlining’ encourages individuals to spend less time online and asks that they participate in an Offline Sabbath, a day when participants avoid using all tech devices from sundown to sundown. Visitors to the site can even make a pledge to have 10 No-Device Dinners between now and Thanksgiving Day, 2010. So far, over 10,000 people have made the pledge (chuckling to myself, because to make the pledge you must go online).

There’s no question that social networking sites like Facebook are important vehicles for public relations. With 18-35 year olds using social networking sites less, does this mean our strategic messages can no longer reach them on this medium?

I don’t think so. There are still over 77 million active Facebook users in the United States in this age range. According to Facebook’s statistics page, on average, a Facebook users spends 23 hours a week on the site. I predict, that like me, most users won’t delete their accounts any time soon, but will significantly reduce the hours they spend using the platform. I can’t speak for the entire demographic, but as an early adopter of the social network, I still appreciate all the features it offers, but I’m beginning to realize there are so many other wonderful things I could do with my time.

How about you, readers? Have you taken vows to reduce the time you dedicate to Facebook or other social networking sites?