Marketers: Carnival Needs a Great PR Video—Now

Cruise industry can own Triumph disaster via social media

Carnival Cruise Lines should post a two-to-three-minute PR video to its Facebook and Twitter pages—and pronto—if it wants to repair the brand damage that's occurred after the Triumph ship fiasco of the last few days, according to industry players.

From Carnival to its brand competitor Royal Caribbean—which is slated to run a 30-second ad during next weekend's Oscars broadcast—the cruise industry needs to deal with the disaster by being in the moment, marketers say.

"They need to own it," said Barry Chandler, CMO of tech firm Buzztime, who actually worked on a Cunard cruise ship for four years earlier in life. "They need to come out with a video from the safety team and talk about what happened, while making references to how this was handled really professionally and emphasizing everyone was brought home safely."

Ideally, Carnival already would have a strong PR video up in the social strata, said Larry Tolpin, president of hospitality-focused agency Paradise. That said, a lot of repair could still be done if the brand reacts quickly and creatively, he added.

"You cannot do anything about what's already out there on TripAdvisor or Pinterest or Twitter," Tolpin said. "But between branded video and [brand social properties], you can be a good corporate citizen. You should interview people who thought the crew reacted admirably and went beyond the call and then show the positive in the disaster."

Carnival should not buy Facebook or Twitter ads to push the video, Chandler from Buzztime said.

"That will make it look like a forced response," he explained. "They should just put it up on their Facebook page and tweet it out, and then let people spread it around from there."

At the same time, Chandler said, Carnival should purchase Facebook Sponsored Stories, promoting positive messages authored by the brand's fans on the social site who were Triumph passengers this week. The same ad unit could be tactfully employed by rival Royal Caribbean, he said, as it hopes to endure public sentiment around the larger cruise industry heading into its Oscars ad buy.

Cristina Calzadilla, vp of communications for Jack Morton Worldwide, suggested Royal Caribbean watch its step when it comes to ad creative during the next few weeks.

"This is a situation where there are no winners," she said. "What happened with Carnival impacts the industry as a whole."

Indeed, it has been a tough branding week for the cruise niche as a whole and specifically Carnival, as its Triumph ship caught fire and lost power before being towed to Mobile, Ala., yesterday. Passengers and their loved ones back home provided the world with real-time reporting via social media, and a lot of the messages were negative.

Carnival's marketing team hasn't sat idly, posting more than a dozen Triumph-related updates on Facebook and squelching rumors on Twitter (see tweet example below). The Doral, Fla.-based company didn't respond to interview requests.