Triumph’s fire lacked proper response from Carnival

By on March 27, 2013

Last month, the Carnival cruise ship Triumph made waves when a fire was ignited in one of its engine rooms, resulting in a lack of power and propulsion for several days. The fire resulted in mostly mild to moderate discomfort for the passengers and crew, and other vessels helped to transfer supplies and tug the Triumph into harbor, finally, on February 14th, four days after the fire occurred.

However, the Triumph fire was nowhere near the top of the list of Carnival’s issues; it simply brought the real issues to light.

The problem that I find most horrifying in this situation is Carnival’s lack of a cohesive response strategy to incidents like this. As Stewart Chiron wrote in the Huffington Post blog, “Keep in mind, cruise ships are machines, and machines do break down,” and that’s all well and good. Perhaps these things happen and are to be expected occasionally, and Carnival compensated the Triumph’s passengers. But this is not the type of response strategy to which I am referring.

One of the most vital assets a company must possess in order to maintain its identity and reputation is a solid, unified strategy for corporate communication. This includes not only obvious components like press releases and interviews, but also things like internal memos, brochures, e-mail or postal correspondence with consumers, and company websites, just to name a few.

One form of corporate communication that has recently become popular is corporate blogging, of which Paul Dwyer, a researcher at Texas A&M University, says, “Consumers respond well to these overtures, showing evidence of increased subject-matter involvement, liking and trust.” Blogs written by higher-ups of large corporations humanize the organizations, making them more relatable to consumers.

John Heald, Senior Cruise Director and Brand Ambassador for Carnival Corporation & PLC, publishes a blog on Carnival’s website. Without the exigent circumstances currently surrounding Carnival (including two more incidents just last week), I would hail John Heald’s blog as a highly effective corporate communication tool as it reaches consumers directly and personally in a visually appealing format.

However, while Carnival is situated in the middle of one of the most widely reported corporate incidents currently in the news, unless you read carefully, you wouldn’t know that based on Heald’s blog entries since the fire. (Carnival’s main website and email correspondence also lack acknowledgment of these incidents.)

As a prominent voice for Carnival, Heald has blatantly ignored a timely opportunity to publicly explain exactly what happened on the Triumph, take an appropriate degree of responsibility on behalf of the corporation, and ensure readers (which, in Heald’s case, are mostly consumers) that they can cruise safely with Carnival.

On the contrary, Heald’s only mention of the incident was a cutting criticism of the news media: “I just wish they would lose the smug, condescending attitude and stop writing the headlines before the facts are in place” and then turned to a discussion of the news media in general (Heald, “Half Moon Cay and the News”).

This sparse commentary comes across as petty and immature, which is not the kind of image a large corporation needs to project for any constituency, especially not consumers. Customers have expectations and concerns when they visit such a personal form of correspondence from a corporate “big wig,” and John Heald has certainly not assuaged their newly ignited fears.

Upon hearing of the more recent minor catastrophes on the Legend and the Dream, I will certainly be watching and waiting to see if Carnival’s response strategy has improved—or, really, begun to exist at all—since the Triumph.

Laura Ann Tipps
Staff Writer

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