Much has been written recently about Carnival Cruise Lines and its public relations challenges. Last week, I was interviewed by phone on the topic. Reuters news agency called to get my assessment of Carnival’s handling of the Triumph fiasco from a crisis PR perspective.
Reuters reached out after reading an in-depth article that Red Banyan Group published a year ago related to PR and the Costa Concordia tragedy. The Reuters article that was published following my interview contained a direct quote from me that was accurate, but it also attributed sentiments to me that were the exact opposite of what I told the reporter.
The line that Reuters had correct was this: “They have done a much better job communicating this time than they did with the Costa Concordia,” That is my assessment and I expounded upon it in a blog posting that appeared on the Red Banyan Group website last week.
When I spoke with the reporter (who, by the way, is not the person whose byline appeared on the published Reuters piece), he specifically asked me if I thought that Carnival’s Chairman and Chief Executive Micky Arison needed to be playing a more involved role. I told him no.
I explained that Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Gerry Cahill was doing what was most vital for Carnival’s PR efforts, putting a human face on the company. I praised Cahill for expressing sympathy for the passengers and their plight. I gave him and the company credit for taking responsibility for what had happened. I also noted that Carnival was wise to pledge a series of specific actions in an attempt to do right by the passengers who were unfortunate enough to have been stranded at sea in truly deplorable conditions.
Reuters asserted that I “would have liked to see Carnivals’ billionaire Chairman and Chief Executive Micky Arison take a more prominent role in the company’s response.” That is simply not the case.
I told the reporter that a company need not always put their MOST SENIOR executive out front as the point person during a crisis—the important thing is that they have A SENIOR executive available, which is what Carnival had done. Somehow, that analysis didn’t make it into the story initially. And despite my repeated attempts to have the story updated to correctly reflect my perspective, it continues to inaccurately convey what I actually said and believe with regard to Micky Arison and Carnival.
I wanted to post this article today as a means of setting the record straight and making sure that the public understands what I actually believe concerning Carnival’s Triumph PR efforts.
This incident clearly illustrates that any time a company or an individual engages with the media they run the risk that their sentiments may be misconstrued, misquoted or taken out of context. Red Banyan Group’s clients rely on me personally to best represent them in the press. For more than 15 years I have been involved with journalists on a daily basis and I try to use that experience to best serve the interests of my clients.
Nobody can guarantee 100 percent success, and I don’t claim for one moment to be perfect. However, I believe that my track record speaks for itself and I know that my clients place a great deal of responsibility and trust in me.
In this instance, the story published was not accurate and this was not the outcome that I would have liked to see. However, I am deeply relieved that it was only me personally, and not any of my clients, who wound up on the receiving end of erroneous reporting.
I understand that this was a single sentence in a much longer story and that my calling attention to this topic through blogging about it may serve to draw more attention to the error. However, I don’t like it when words are put into my mouth. I also believe that both reporters and public relations professionals should be relentless about pursuing accuracy and making sure that the facts have a fair chance to be heard.