Agency + Industry / public-relations

Public Relations Fail: Costa Concordia

On Jan. 13 Captain Francesco Schettino brought the cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, carrying more than 4,000 people, too close to shore in order to make a display.  This caused the ship to hit rocks and capsize. A tragedy that resulted in 17 deaths and, at last count, a dozen people still missing. Captain Schettino is being held under house arrest and charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship before all passengers and crew were evacuated.

After the incident, the attention was fully on Captain Schettino who had lied about when he evacuated, even stating that he had accidentally fallen off the ship and into a life boat. He also waited too long to raise the alarm and misled the coast guard and his own crew about the seriousness of the situation. Schettino was the clear “villain” in this story until Carnival, owners of the Costa Concordia, inadvertently took the spotlight.

There are certain steps Carnival should have taken in order to remain in positive favor in the public’s eye. It should have apologized profusely for the Captain’s actions, made public statements honoring those who did not survive and offer survivors a significant amount of money to cover the emotional, mental and physical damages caused by going through something so traumatic.

Instead, Carnival CEO, Micky Arison was nowhere to be seen. He sent his condolences to victims while relaxing in Miami and released a few written corporate statements. He remained out of the spotlight and in Miami. It wasn’t until newspapers starting writing about his absence that on Jan. 17 he tweeted “I won’t be as active on Twitter for the next while. Helping our @costacruises team manage this crisis is my priority right now.” Yet he restricted himself to only written statements for 10 days after the accident.

Then it was reported that Carnival reimbursed survivors for this cruise and offered 30 percent off of their next cruise. When word spread people were outraged over this news. Carnival denied these allegations and said they offered the 30 percent discount to those who had trips booked with them in the future, not those who were on the Costa Concordia. Yet, several victims say they were contacted with this offer.costa concordia 805654773

To add insult, a mailer was sent (and some of the members of the Mason crew received it!) from American Express advertising the Costa carnival cruises. The mailer urged people to “Immerse youself in a truly European experience.” The company was embarrassed for sending this mailer out but said that the process to send out mailers is very long and they were created long before the tragedy. (But what’s their excuse for the spelling?)

And if all of these issues are not awful enough, Carnival offered survivors $14,458 each, as well as any additional travel costs or expenses. The majority of survivors have already rejected this offensive offer joining in a class action law suit against the company.

It will be interesting to follow the story and see if Carnival makes an attempt to clear up this PR mess. One thing is certain; it’s going to take a lot of work to turn impressions around and rebuild the line’s credibility!

We’ve all heard of businesses having huge public relations flops, but what if a PR rep is the one causing the problem? That is what happened to N-Control in mid-December of 2011.

N-Control are the creators of the Avenger, a video game controller accessory designed for disabled users and hardcore gamers. The company’s PR representation was Ocean Marketing, headed by Paul Christoforo, who for a short time was put in charge of customer service for the company. During the holidays a customer named Dave emailed asking when his remote would be arriving, as it was past the estimated arrival date and it was a gift for somebody. What was to follow became pure PR mayhem. The email chain, which can be found here, became viral within hours of being posted on a gaming blog, Penny Arcade.

Continue reading “N-Control: The Perfect Example of Bad PR and Good PR all in one!”

Agency + Industry / public-relations

Go Daddy Learns a Valuable Public Relations Lesson

Domain registrar Go Daddy has been the topic of conversation since its open support of the SOPA bill. For those who don’t know SOPA—or  Stop Online Piracy Act — is a bill that supporters claim will stop people from stealing or pirating content such as music, movies and books online. Opponents claim that the bill will give the government complete control of content on the internet by making it incredibly easy for courts to shut down any website that is suspected of participating in copyright infringement. In addition, it would require internet service providers as well as search engines to block access to offending sites.

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It’s nearly 2012.  CL&P is a public company.  The October snow storm was unprecedented. Therefore, when faced with an issue:  tell your story using all available means; don’t operate like a mom & pop company; and, present the facts to the public with supporting evidence.

Continue reading “October storm was a crisis; it should not have been a public relations storm”

Agency + Industry / public-relations

Kenneth Cole, You Big Dummy

Let this be a lesson to anyone and everyone in social media. We’ll call this lesson “How Not To Use Twitter.”

In our world of marketing, advertising and PR we often look for clever ways to attach a brand to a movement, holiday, event and so on. Preferably, something positive. From my own personal experience, we drummed up a media opportunity for a client. The pitch? Bruegger’s offers snow plow drivers, police, firemen and other public safety personnel free coffee during a major snowstorm. A small token to thank them, keep them energized and earn some media coverage from a topical, timely event. In short, it was a nice thing to do and the client was happy with the TV coverage. It also fit with the Bruegger’s brand and philosophy of being a part of the neighborhoods in which they operate. Anyhow… on to Kenneth Cole’s Twitter-fiasco.

Continue reading “Kenneth Cole, You Big Dummy”

This is a pretty decent article in The New York Times by Peter Goodman on August 21, and it is definitely worth reading from beginning to end. I am not going to repeat the lessons outlined in the article, because while there are solid points to be learned, there is nothing new here.

Continue reading “Public Relations: “In Case of Emergency: What Not to Do””

Agency + Industry / public-relations

Is LeBron James a Public Relations Genius?

There are times I question what makes news these days. As I passed our wall-mounted TV in the lobby this morning with my cup of coffee, I paused to see CNN reporting “breaking news” that Shakira was about to reveal the outfit she will wear during the closing ceremony of the World Cup. Really? Is this news? I suppose it is if you’re in the fashion business and your dress is Shakira’s outfit of choice, but come on! I couldn’t help but laugh.

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One of the most exciting and challenging areas of public relations is crisis communication. Often times a crisis can blindside you and if you’re not prepared for it, it can spiral and grow into an out-of-control beast. Throughout my own professional experience and being a part of several client crises, I have learned two very important things:

1. Honesty is the best policy

2. It takes years to build a brand, and minutes to topple it

Continue reading “Public Relations Crisis: Honesty Really is the Best Policy”

Agency + Industry / public-relations

Attention to Detail: The Unsung Hero of PR

When hearing the words “public relations,” many people who are familiar with the business view it on a larger scale. For example, public relations specialists are seen as “reputation protectors” or “relationship builders.” That may be true in that one of the main goals of PR is to enhance your client’s reputation and shed some light on who they are and what they do. Perhaps one of the most common ways to build positive publicity for your client is through drafting a press release. A solid press release with a memorable story message could really go a long way, but a lot of writers lose their fundamentals in the process.

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Agency + Industry / public-relations

What do you tell “PR101” students today?

As I look over my past presentation as I prepare to talk with a local college class today, I have to make some major revisions. It’s kind of nice to see predictions come true.  Amazing what a year or two will do.

While theCutlip definition of public relations still holds up, and what is under the public relations umbrella is still relevant, a focus on brand and brand development rises to the top of the list.

Continue reading “What do you tell “PR101” students today?”