Carnival CEO Maintains Low Profile While the News Gets Worse

With 15 people now confirmed dead (the body of a woman was found Sunday, Jan. 22) and another 17 still missing, news continues to flow from the Costa Concordia tragedy that will challenge parent company Carnival Corp.'s PR efforts. One piece of news is that there were unregistered passengers onboard, an allegation that subsidiary Costa Cruises denies. The other news is of Costa Cruises' own making—an offer of 30% off future cruises to survivors, termed by one passenger as "insulting."

Then there's the case of Carnival Corp. CEO Micky Arison, and how he's handling the crisis. Today's Wall Street Journal follows Arison's crisis tracks since the ship partially sank on Jan. 13. The article says that Arison's management style is to let his business units' leadership do the crisis response heavy lifting. Arison's public responses have been limited to some Twitter posts and via statements in press releases expressing condolences. Some have questioned this stay-in-the-background strategy, given the scope of the accident.

In a Jan. 23 PR News article that dissects the communications around the incident, Larry Berg, VP & GM of media and marketing company Valassis, says that generally speaking, the CEO should be front and center in a crisis. "The CEO should be a company's representative to the community, acknowledging the key issues, apologizing to the affected families, telling what is known about the crisis so far and giving a commitment to not letting such an incident happen in the future," says Berg.

Arison and his advisers have chosen to let Costa Cruises CEO Pier Luigi Foschi be that representative. We do, however, question why Arison hasn't visited the scene of the accident to speak to the families of the dead and missing. A visit from the CEO would be about more than positive PR—it would be a symbol of the humanity of the company.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01