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PR Tips: Carnival PR Team Adrift While Reputation Sinks

By Cristin Jordan

When I’m not toiling away in front of the computer, I love to plan future vacations that hopefully won’t be too far in the future. Almost every week I pray that there’s one on the horizon, even if it’s just a short weekend jaunt.

However, last week wasn’t one of those weeks. Watching the horrid conditions passengers endured onboard the cruise ship Carnival Triumph made my volunteer trips to Haiti look like luxury vacations.

From a PR standpoint, Carnival did some things right, but more should have been done sooner and better. Of course the fire wasn’t planned. Things happen, I get that, – but that doesn’t mean an adequate response can’t be in place and ready to go for situations like this. Shortly after news broke that a fire had disabled much of the ship and left passengers with little plumbing, food and electricity, Carnival should have expected that loved ones and family members would have been panicked. I remember hearing a family member of someone onboard say that the only information he got was from a morning show he called.

Why was that?

The team at Carnival needed to take control of the situation and assure everyone – from those on the ship to those hearing about it at home – that they had a plan and everything was going to work out. Once the passengers finally got on dry soil, there were questions revolving around why the cruise line felt the need to drive passengers hours away to New Orleans to catch a flight. If there was a reasonable explanation (which I hope didn’t involve saving the company money), then that should have been articulated to the passengers – and to the news media.

Carnival could have used its website to post more briefings and to post updates more often so that everyone was better informed. With the Internet, there’s no excuse for anyone not having enough information.
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As much as I love cruising, this crisis made me a little apprehensive about booking my family vacation with Carnival this summer. The cruise line has a lot of work to do to get those images of weary, destitute travelers from top-of-mind when I – and the rest of the world – think about it.

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Topics: public relations, PR tips, crisis communications, shared media

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