Costa Cruises adopts "brave" crisis communication strategy
TV pictures of the marooned cruise liner Concordia and interviews with survivors vividly portrayed the horror of those on board.
It's the kind of situation which no company wants to face, but is a crisis communication challenge presented to the travel and tourism industry on an all too frequent basis. Which is why it's so surprising that the company's CEO was quoted by Reuters as saying "These ships are ultra-safe. It is an exceptional event, which was unforeseeable".
Pictures speak louder than words so claims that the ships are "ultra-safe" jar with the images we all saw last weekend. And to say that the event was "unforeseeable" is questionable: the precise cause may have been unforeseeable, but the idea that a cruise liner could run aground and require evacuation is surely one of the first scenarios that might have been envisaged through crisis management planning?
I have also been surprised at the speed and openness with which the company has blamed its captain: in his press conference, the CEO Pier Luigi Foschi stated "we cannot deny human error", and this follows on from an earlier statement which laid the blame at his door. Please see my personal blog for more thoughts on this particular topic:
The biggest learning though is that all businesses - and especially those in high risk sectors - must plan for crisis, they must rehearse their plans and they must train their spokespeople if they want to protect their reputations.
Costa Cruises are learning this the hard way and in the words of its CEO "We have one million loyal customers and are hoping that the reputation of our company will be repaired.". This looks set to be a long journey.