Monday, January 23, 2012

Is Carnival's CEO MIA?

It’s been more than a week since the cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground off the Italian coast. Costa Crociere SpA’s CEO Pier Luigi Foschi has issued statements and held press conferences. Notably missing from the response is Mickey Arison, CEO of Costa’s parent company, Carnival Corp. 

A Wall Street Journal article on the subject notes Arison is known for a hands-off management style and he gives his leaders wide latitude in running each of the ten cruise lines that Carnival owns.

Based on the where the crisis is right now this is the right call.

Costa's CEO is Italian, the cruise line is based in Italy and the accident happened a few hundred meters off the Italian coast. He speaks the language. His press conferences and statements have been in Italian. This is a global story certainly, but one based in Italy.

Reflect back to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. BP CEO Tony Hayward was barbequed in the US press because of his “foreign” accent (Disclosure: BP is a Signal Bridge client). Hayward and the company were criticized for being tone deaf to the needs of the residents along the Gulf Coast who were suffering. A rich Englishman couldn’t possibly understand the concerns and needs of the shrimper from Plaquemines Parish. It was an unfair criticism, but it stuck. Arison would be considered a foreigner if he went to Italy. 

Former Exxon CEO Lawrence Rawl
Bitter Much?
If you go back to the Exxon Valdez (1989), the CEO was roundly criticized for doing only three interviews in the first six weeks of the disaster. Apply the same logic to the Deepwater Horizon spill and you can understand why the company put Hayward nearly every where after the spill. Hayward and the company paid dearly for that decision as he made a number of memorable gaffs during interviews about the response and was photographed aboard his yacht as the company struggled to plug the runaway well.

Can Arison add anything to the response in Italy? He has Tweeted his sympathy to victims of the accident and in a company news release. There appears to be no lack of resources in the response run out of Italy, although there have been some PR mis-steps.

There are two key questions that PR types should be asking right now: What can Arison add to the response? And is it worth the risk that he might make a mistake that comes to overshadow the response? 

Unless there is a compelling case that the victims of the disaster benefit from his presence, Micky Arison should stay in Miami.

Bill Salvin

1 comment:

  1. Exactly. consider this, what I think he should have said, however.