carnival-cruiseIn the wake of the recent Carnival Cruise line disaster, it didn’t take long for the tsunami of social media to begin flooding the Internet as soon as the disabled Carnival Cruise Line  ship got within wireless Internet range.

The accounts and pictures of what looked like refugee camps along with the types of unsanitary squalor associated with developing countries became fodder for Facebook and other social media sites within hours of reaching the Alabama coast line.

And a recent check of the Carnival Cruise line Facebook page has now become a pitched battle between critics and defenders of the embattled cruise line with tens of thousands of posts and comments.

So what did I learn from this very public meltdown that is being duked out in social media?

  • Don’t Lie:  No matter how hard you try you can’t really keep a lid on letting negative information from getting out.  With everyone having a video recorder and camera on their phones the best approach is to tell the truth, acknowledge the problem and move on
  • Remain calm:  try and respond with an even keeled response and avoid taking the bait of those who would try and enflame the situation
  • Don’t silence your critics:  Especially on social media, your advocates, assuming you have some, will likely come to your rescue and balance out the discussion.

In addition to the blow-up on social media, the PR implications also have been enormous.

In what has become the latest public relations disaster to hit the cruise industry, Lynette Viviani of Viviani PR, a New Jersey-based PR firm , offers these observations:

“What strikes me about this incident is that while the company itself was portrayed in a questionable light, the Carnival employees were given overwhelming praise by passengers before and after they disembarked the ship. Although much of the news reporting focused on the crew’s working conditions and foreign registry, which makes them exempt for U.S. labor laws, these employees are the face of the company and appeared to do a stellar job in a very tough situation.  They were trained by the company and seemed to reflect a culture of customer service for which the company deserves credit. I think Carnival did the right thing by acknowledging their responsibility, apologizing and offering to compensate guests, but they could have done more to link the company with the heroic employees who represent them and to spotlight these employees in their crisis messaging.”

An opportunity missed?  Perhaps.  But while a solid PR strategy combined with an engaged and authentic social media strategy will not erase the unfortunate events that transpired,  monitoring and keeping open the lines of communication can at least help steady the ship until the company can reach calmer waters.

What do you think Carnival could have done to communicate better?