Carnival has a massive PR crisis on its hands, and its handling of it is making things even worse for the cruise line.
The Costa Concordia disaster has left at least 16 people dead, with 17 still missing.
But it’s not so much the circumstances of the crash ruining the brand, it’s the company’s terrible management of the crisis.
What has Carnival done wrong? Two big things:
The CEO — the face of the company — is nowhere to be found
“Where is Micky Arison?” asks The Wall Street Journal bluntly. Carnival’s CEO has been almost completely MIA — at least publically — in the wake of the accident. He didn’t fly over to Italy to be at the scene of the disaster, and he didn’t immediately send any of his executives over there.
Instead, Arison expressed his condolences with a nicely-crafted PR statement from Miami. He waited a week to send one of his big execs, Vice Chairman and COO Howard Frank, across the Atlantic. He finally appeared at the crash site last weekend with Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi.
What happened in the week between the time of the crash and Frank’s journey? Cruise Law News reports that in Miami, “some of the the Carnival executives have been seen gallivanting around town at black-tie gala parties and even Miami Heat professional basketball games.” At least Arison, who owns the Heat, hasn’t been seen at any games since the disaster.
Still, CEOs need to be front and centre in a crisis, especially one of this magnitude (ask BP and Exxon what happens when you hide). One visual image from a leader — something that reminds customers that you actually give a crap — can go a long way.
Now, Arison looks totally detached, like he doesn’t care about what’s going on, even though he’s likely doing plenty of things behind the scenes. Carnival is trying to distance its main cruise line brand from the disaster to try to maintain its reputation, and if Arison talks, it would bring the brand much closer.
The company seems out of touch with the plight of the victims
Costa Concordia offered passengers 30% off their next Costa cruise. This appears extremely insensitive after these people just experienced a deadly crash on the same cruise line. A multi-billion dollar company tossing you a measly 30% coupon after a huge tragedy?
Of course, the passengers felt insulted, and spoke out against it to the media. Thankfully they were also given full refunds for their trip on the Costa Concordia.
Carnival has done some things right, having arranged lodging and transportation for the passengers. It also says it’ll address the loss of personal belongings, but that’s still not enough.
What should it have done? Back in 2010, Carnival offered a group of stranded passengers a refund and free cruise — not just a 30% discount. The company could do that for customers who want to remain loyal, and offer some sort of cash compensation for those who don’t.
And once things have calmed, Carnival has to address how it’s going to prevent this sort of disaster from happening again to show it’s actively working to improve the safety of its customers.