Passengers Launch Lawsuits Against Carnival Cruises

 Passengers Launch Lawsuits Against Carnival Cruises

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Carnival Cruise Lines.

The ship of the damned, Carnival Cruise Lines Triumph, lurched into port last Friday after days of horrendous conditions at sea. The luxury cruise ship suffered a fire early into its voyage and lost all power, leaving nearly 4,000 passengers and crew in the dark, with limited food and water, no air conditioning in sweltering temperatures, and toilets that quickly overflowed into the hallways.

There was little surprise that after the ground was kissed by passengers, lawyers were called, and as early as Sunday, lawsuits were being filed against Carnival. The first claimed Carnival “failed to provide a seaworthy vessel and sanitary conditions” with the plaintiff seeking compensation for “physical and emotional harm, anxiety, nervousness and the loss of enjoyment of life.’”

Carnival’s fine print states that the cruise line “shall not be liable for emotional distress and mental suffering.” However, that doesn’t cover physical damage. A second suit now cites physical injuries, including severe dehydration. It’s likely these will spawn further suits; one passenger mentioned during a morning show interview that she’d broken her ankle in the dark. Lawyers are at the starting line.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Carnival Cruise Lines. The cruise from hell may be over for the passengers, but it’s ongoing for a company still reeling from the ship-aground disaster in Italy.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Taking action speaks louder than simply saying “I’m sorry” . Carnival Chairman and CEO Micky Arison apologized via loudspeaker on the cruise liner when his defeated Triumph was towed into port, but passengers were in no mood. An indication of what could have been done came when passengers took time from detailing wretched conditions to praise the crew for taking good care of them, when they were suffering even more. The issue at sea went on for days with those aboard Tweeting about worsening conditions. What else might have been done? Why not airlift more food and water, no matter the cost? Or, make a bold and unprecedented move to show how much the CEO cared by airlifting him onto the ship and joining the passengers in hell. What a PR impression that would have made! He might have been as uncomfortable as his fellow passengers but that might have paled in comparison to the questions he now faces from Carnival’s board as it fends of a flotilla of lawsuits.

A Serious Storm, A Simple (and Effective) Message

OB VD264 obamaf G 20121028145952 150x150 A Serious Storm, A Simple (and Effective) Message

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for a President’s speech that reassured and activated.

Hurricane Sandy has managed to do the unthinkable in terms of media coverage: moved the last ten days of electioneering off the front page and turned national attention toward disaster recovery. President Obama joined the conversation on Monday morning, and with a coupe of clearly honed messages at a hastily-convened press conference, he made the transition from electioneering President to President in Charge.

Obama’s short speech is worth watching for anyone wanting to know how to craft a simple message. What started off with a slightly wordy and lengthy introduction soon became clear. Yes, preparations were in place and the East Coast was as ready as it could be, but the main takeaway? “Listen to what officials are saying – this is a serious storm.”

Obama’s speech was designed to reassure, and to manage expectations. He flagged the  inevitable issues that will arise post-storm, including long-running power outages and transportation delays. But the main lesson from the speech is that reassuring the public that everything’s under control is not enough; a call to action is needed and grabs attention. Getting the public directly involved takes the conversation to a higher level of engagement.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for a President’s speech that reassured and activated.

The PR Takeaway: To get the public’s attention, give the public something to do. President Obama’s speech included a roll call of what was intended to reassure a nervous public. What made the difference was clear instruction. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a similar speech following September 11, when he asked New Yorkers to go back to their lives, the streets, and shopping. A call to action from someone in authority got attention then, as it does now.

How Will Citigroup’s Sandy Weill be Remembered?

sandyweill2 How Will Citigroups Sandy Weill be Remembered?

PR Verdict: “F” for Sandy Weill and his attempt to be secure a kinder slot in the history books.

How will history remember Sandy Weill, the former CEO of Citigroup and architect of the largest financial services firm that nearly went under?  Judging by a recent article published in Fortune, if he has his way, he would like to be remembered as a visionary philanthropist.  History may not be so kind.

In an embarrassingly soft-ball article, the former CEO waxes lyrical about his philanthropic endeavours for the first part of the interview.  These include the creation of the National Academy Foundation as well as generous contributions to the arts and healthcare, obligingly listed by the magazine.

As for the tough questions about the near collapse of the financial system, his own bank’s astonishing destruction of value and the excesses of executive compensation, Weill says nothing of any interest.  Given his experience and formerly revered status, now was the time, at the age of 79 to rescue an irredeemably doomed reputation.  Regarding executive compensation Weill sounds more like a PR intern working on a draft Q&A, opining,  “people should be paid appropriately”.  He adds that fixing banks that are  “too big to fail is a problem” but offers no solution or insight.  He concedes that “people made mistakes that created issues” but blithely adds “it’s time to move on.”

PR Verdict:  “F” for Sandy Weill and his attempt to secure a kinder slot in the history books.  Speaking in generalities and turning attention to philanthropic endeavours will not redefine a hopelessly damaged reputation.

PR Takeaway: If you want to change a point of view say something surprising.  Salvaging a reputation requires more than throwing money at charitable causes.  At Weill’s venerable age he has nothing to lose. Why not make some radical fundamental observations while also acknowledging some personal role in the crisis? It might have given him the reputational rewrite he seems to crave.   Next time have a look at Warren Buffett for some pointers on how to make people sit up and listen.

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