A PR shipwreck we can all learn from

By Matter

By now everyone has heard about the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the coast of an Italian island, and it has not been good news. After nearly two weeks, the cruise line is still making national headlines. While I have little experience in crisis communications, I know there are plenty of public relations lessons to be learned from this particular crisis.

Get everything out in the open, no big secrets.
Once your company is in the news for a major crisis, people are going to dig for follow up stories. If you hide information, people are going to find out and it will do even more damage to the company’s reputation than if you had just shared the information from the get go. Also, if your company shares the information first, you can explain the situation and shed the most positive light on the situation. When companies withhold the details, people are naturally inclined to assume the worst. Again, not good.

Plan ahead.
In college, we did a case study on BP’s oil spill and the basic principles apply here as well. From my point of view, it looks like the Costa Concordia crew and Carnival Cruise Lines did not have an effective crisis communications plan in place. The company has not made their statements readily available and easy to find. After a quick search, this was the only press release I could find, which was dated six days after the incident.

Be proactive.
If you know that there are issues or controversies within your organization that could lead to a crisis, have a well thought out plan (that is understood by your internal team) and perhaps even suggest that the organization make changes to avoid a crisis all together.

I am interested to see how the rest of this crisis plays out. What kind of crisis communications advice do you give to clients, either before or after disaster has struck?