Media Critical of Controversial Crisis Communications Counsel Conferred to Carnival Cruise Chairman, Micky Arison 

In his Part III Case Study of the Costa Cruise Ship Disaster, Jeff Mustard, a veteran public relations professional provides a fascinating peek from an inside-industry public relations perspective, chronicling the crisis communications and the media’s coverage of the event

by jeff mustard Thursday, January 26, 2012
While the divers of the rescue team wade their way through cloudy waters of the ocean still looking for the missing dead bodies, above ground, the early charted course set by the crisis communications team might be entering cloudy waters of their own as criticism, mostly media driven, condemning the lack of Arison’s public profile since the ship sank is beginning to crack the surface in the public debate.

Has Carnival Cruise CEO Micky Arison Abandoned Ship, or Just Below Deck?

Although no one really knows where Micky Arison has been, the subtext of the question is really, WHY hasn’t he been in Italy, or why hasn’t he been (more) visible since one of his ships sank?

For the time being, Arison may have gone below deck, but he has not abandoned ship.

Arison, while not in the public spotlight as the voice, the face, the spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines since Friday the 13th, 11 days ago, when the Costa Concordia met some unexpected rocks and crippled the Costa Concordia, Arison, while out of sight is still very much at the helm of Carnival Cruise Lines, even if it’s from the company’s corporate headquarters in Doral, Florida, a few miles from the port of Miami where many of Arison’s fleet make their home.

The Wall Street Journal Fires the First Negative PR Salvo over the Bow of the Concordia, Right at Carnival CEO, Micky Arison

The First negative PR salvo was fired over the bow of the sunken Costa Concordia right at Micky Arison. NO surprise. It was just a matter of time. It’s also no surprise also that it came from the Wall Street Journal. The “attack” came in the form of a very subtle headline, 11 days after the Costa crisis occurred. The headline: “Carnival CEO Lies Low After Wreck” - Make no mistake about it though, this headline smacks of efforts to stir up trouble for Arison for remaining out of the public spotlight on the issue.
For a closer examination of the full Wall Street Journal article referenced above, along with a detailed analysis of this classic sensationalized Headline Copywriting, that while on the surface seems to “indicate” the accused, in this case Micky Arison, the article actually goes on to defend his actions for “laying low.”

To read the fascinating deconstructed version of this entirely misleading story visit Part III, A Crisis Communications Case Study, the third installment in extensive analysis of the communications crisis coverage of the Costa Concordia ship-sinking disaster.

Part III, A Crisis Communications Management Case Study
Managing the Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Crisis: Who’s in Charge and Where is Micky Arison, Chairman & CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines?

Read the Full Report Now:

Micky Arison: Changing the Crisis Communications PR Playbook
“A disaster that involves people, property, lost lives and potentially seriously devastating financial consequences to an industry responsible for millions of jobs globally and that generates billions of dollars affecting a host of industry sectors, is pretty much the absolute worst situation a person can find themselves in if they are the person whose company is involved in just such a disaster,” says veteran public relations professional, Jeff Mustard, President of The Bamboo Agency, a full-service advertising and marketing firm that specializes in Public Relations and Crisis Communications.

“It has come to be expected that a company Chairman step forward in just such crises situations,” says Mustard, “and this expectation comes not just out of the playbook of public relations and crisis communications management professionals, but also to a great degree, subconsciously by the public.”

Micky Arison: Not the Right Guy for the Job

But, Arison, it would seem, is not the right guy for the job. In this particular crisis a variety of circumstances have come into play that have unfolded in real time during the crisis and by default, perhaps as much as by design, (advice from the inner coterie – carnival officials as well as their PR Crisis Management Company – Burson Marsteller), invariably further contributed to Arison’s low profile in the crisis and positioned Pier Luigi Foschi, CEO of the Costa Concordia as the main man facing the cameras – and answering the questions.

Naturally, Arison’s “lack of presence” is getting attention, and Arison is taking some, but mostly media criticism, for his lack of visibility. But, purely from a public relations crisis communications management perspective, the central question is -- should Arison BE the person out front on this?

The answer is YES. However, he is not, and here’s a glimpse Why.

Given all the politics and the unique circumstances of the situation as it unfolded, how it unfolded, where it happened, when it happened, all of these variables, and many others, play(ed) a role in Foschi emerging as the titular representative for the crisis.

Foschi, Whether by Agreement or Acquiescence Accepted the Role as Spokesperson for the Crisis

Foschi, early on, handled the situation well, and seemingly, he continues to do so. Arison’s lack of visibility goes against the PR textbook playbook. That doesn’t’ make Arison wrong, it just makes his decision different than what most (media and members of the public) think is “the right way to handle” a crisis situation.

In this Part III case study, along with the two earlier produced reports, marketers, the media, public relations professionals and consumers alike will be treated to a glimpse behind the curtain of the critical issues and considerations contemplated when coping with and coordinating a crisis of this magnitude. Further, rare insights are offered concerning how communications strategies are crafted to best manage and even manipulate the media to control public perception for the preservation of a company’s name, brand, reputation and financial performance – both in the immediate term as well in the near and long term.

To read the full Report, Part III, A Crisis Communications Management Case Study: Managing the Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Crisis: Who’s in Charge and Where is Micky Arison, Chairman & CEO of Carnival Cruise Line?

While the “Public Jury” is still Out, Carnival Stock Remains Afloat

While the “public jury at large” is still out on any consequences or ramifications regarding Arison’s lack of presence in the ship sinking crisis, as of this writing, purely from a financial perspective, company stakeholders and shareholders continue to stand by the chairman. Stockholders have not abandoned ship, nor would it seem do they wish to scuttle Carnival Corporation.

As of 12:55 PM, Tuesday, January 24th, Carnival Cruise stock continues to ride the wave of improving consumer confidence in the corporation. Carnival stock, as of this moment is trading at $31.75, up .76% for the day.
While it is still too early to arrive at a final public relations assessment on whether or not Carnival Cruise CEO, Micky Arison should have been out front as spokesperson on the ship sinking crisis, at this time, it seems, this was the right decision.

“For the time being, Pier Luigi Foschi might be Micky Arison’s life preserver, but it does not mean that Arison, or Carnival Cruise Corporation is out of troubled waters, at least just yet,” observes public relations crisis communications professional, Jeff Mustard.


Two Case Studies – Part 1, Produced and Published 72 hours after the Costa Concordia was grounded.

Will Sinking Ship, Costa Concordia Cripple Carnival Cruise Lines, or will Successful Public Relations Crisis Communications Buoy Cruise-Consumer & Capital Markets Confidence?
Read the Full Case Study, Part I Now:

Just Three days after the 951’ luxury cruise-liner ran aground and flipped on its side throwing passengers into the icy cold waters and casting a glaring spotlight on the Concordia ship disaster, Carnival Cruise Lines and the cruise industry, Jeff Mustard produced one of the public relations industry’s earliest and most thorough analyses of the then rapidly unfolding crisis. In his first crisis communications case study, a 13-page report, Mustard offers interesting, informative and intuitive insights that public relations professionals, the media and even consumers will likewise also find this initial study revealing and illuminating.

[CENTER]Crisis Communications Case Study, Part II, Examines during a 7 Day Period Carnival’s Actions and the Media Coverage and Reactions to the Ship Sinking Disaster in the below titled report[/CENTER]:

Part II Crisis Communications Case Study: “Costa Concordia & Carnival Cruise Lines Crisis Communications: Containment or Calamity?

In his Crisis Communications Case Study, Part II, “Costa Concordia & Carnival Cruise Lines Crisis Communications: Containment or Calamity?” veteran public relations professional, Jeff Mustard produced a 29-page report that reviews what Costa and Carnival Cruise Lines officials and their communications team did right, wrong, and what it could have done better. The analysis reads like a taught thriller, is interesting, informative and enlightening and should prove illuminating not just to public relations professionals, but the media and consumers alike curious about how just such crisis situations are managed and even manipulated from a marketing and messaging point of view.

Read the full report, Part II Crisis Communications Case Study: “Costa Concordia & Carnival Cruise Lines Crisis Communications: Containment or Calamity?
Read the Full Case Study:

A multiple award-winning full-service advertising, marketing and public relations firm, The Bamboo Agency provides extraordinary creative services in mass media marketing and the broadcast arts. From brochures to national branding, and absolutely everything in between, we create and execute exceptional marketing campaigns for your company, product or service.

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