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Mishandling crisis communications can have the effect of sailing your organization’s reputation into “rough waters.”  Long familiar with rough waters of a different kind, Norwegian Cruise line learned an important PR lesson earlier this year the hard way. After having subjected passengers to a dirty, dusty, smelly – and some would say hazardous – construction zone on the high seas, Norwegian’s communications failed on two fronts:

1) Their immediate response to passengers was both inadequate and delivered by an unprepared messenger, the ship’s captain.

2) They seriously misjudged how their initial offer to make the situation right – 25% off a future cruise – would be received by an important audience – their customers.

Subjected to a rash of terrible news coverage, while being tarred and feathered on social media, the company eventually improved their offer to impacted passengers, but from a reputation perspective, the damage was done.

Norwegian offers a great opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

  • First, be prepared – have your crisis communications plan in place before you need it. This includes identifying audiences, articulating standby messaging, knowing your comms channels, etc.
  • Second, make sure your operational response – unlike Norwegian’s – will meet, if not exceed your stakeholders’ expectations.
  • Lastly, have your messengers trained in advance. Give them a chance to practice, adjust and improve their ability to deliver your messages effectively.