Captain Francesco Schettino added a new dimension to the term ‘Rocking the Boat’ when he unwittingly removed some of Giglio’s real estate by turning the Costa Concordia into the world’s most luxurious dredger.
He also triggered a major crisis with arguably the most dramatic maritime event since the Titanic, just a few weeks short of the centenary of that fatal maiden voyage.
The Costa Concordia incident, like all other crises, requires a special brand of PR to minimise the inevitable damage to reputation – and share price, as Costa’s parent, Carnival, suffered in the immediate aftermath of the event.
Crisis PR is all about having a practised plan ready for immediate implementation when ‘the worst’ happens. A ship sinking, a factory destroyed by fire, a building collapsing or a cyberattack breaching data security are typical examples of crises that can hit any company, at any time. There are, of course, many other examples of greater and lesser disasters.
PR cannot right the wrongs, but judicious communication with officialdom, the media, investors, customers and staff may soften the blow by encouraging understanding – even sympathy. The most important element is to show that the company is reacting with care and control, with key players demonstrating professionalism in the crisis roles.
Whether you are an SME or a mega-corporation, ask yourself: are we prepared for the worst? Do we have the right tools to dig ourselves out of any mess that comes our way?
If you haven’t got an up-to-date crisis PR plan, get one as soon as possible. Practise it. Make sure that potential spokesmen know the ropes. Make sure all customer-facing staff know what they should and should not say. Don’t rock the boat!
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 16 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.