Archives Cynthia

Carnival gives new meaning to the term cruise control, quickly stops reputation from sinking

A company in crisis is often referred to as a ‘sinking ship’ but that’s a metaphor you really don’t want to hear when the company in question is Carnival Cruise Line.

Last week, a passenger posted a disturbing video on Facebook of water rushing into the ship, along with a message that sounded, most absurdly, like a cry for help. I like to think that the passenger was joking when they asked social media followers to send their prayers – but I’ve seen Poseidon Adventure a dozen times. Knee deep water in the corridors of a ship at sea; I’d be asking for more than just prayers. I’d be tweeting for the Coast Guard.

The video went viral and was picked up by every news agency and Carnival’s PR department was faced with yet another attack on their company’s reputation as a fun and safe way to travel. In the past, Carnival has taken heat for sickening passengers, allowing a brawl to get out of control and earlier this year, two passengers died due to falls (one overboard and one to a lower deck).

Now here comes a passenger with a cell phone and an internet connection and suddenly the ship has been renamed The Titanic. According to Carnival (and I believe them), the ship was never in danger of going down. A water sprinkler pipe burst and created quite a mess. Only 100 passengers were affected by the flood which was contained AND cleaned up in under five hours.

What’s important here is that Carnival didn’t panic, even though I’m sure many of the people on board the ship were doing just that. They also didn’t attempt to gloss over the problem. The statement they issued is a textbook example of proper crisis communication.

First, they admit there was a problem and dive right in addressing concerns about the ship’s operation.

The Carnival Dream has continued on its 7-day Caribbean cruise uninterrupted after the water line break on Thursday evening, May 3.  It will return to its homeport of New Orleans as scheduled on Sunday morning. The water main break had no effect on the safe operation of the ship. The safety and security of our guests and crew is our top priority.

Next, they acknowledge the efforts of not only the crew but their customers. They emphasise the speedy response and the lengths they went to accommodate people who were concerned about the incident.

Both our crew and our guests have been amazing during this voyage.  The water line break occurred at 6:00 p.m. and in six hours, our crew had replaced hall and stateroom carpeting, dried out other sections of carpeting that were damp but did not need to be replaced, and restored the 50 staterooms so that all guests could sleep in their beds that evening.  There were a handful of guests that chose to sleep elsewhere that first night and we moved mattresses to the spa for them.

Note, that even though they didn’t have rooms for the affected passengers to sleep in, they found a comfortable place for them. Not ideal, but it was better than forcing already worried passengers to do something they didn’t want to do.

Finally, they show that Carnival puts customers in front of profits:

We never want our guests to experience anything other than a perfect vacation, so we sincerely regret that we inconvenienced nearly 100 guests.  We provided a full refund and a future cruise credit as a goodwill gesture.  We offered to fly the impacted guests home at our expense if they wanted to disembark early and only two of the nearly 100 guests that received our offer chose to do so.

I don’t know what a cruise costs, but I know it’s not cheap. Refunding all 100 guests, even though they were only inconvenienced for a few hours was a HUGE move. The line that really gets me is that they offered to buy airline tickets for those 100 people if they wanted to leave the ship. By stating that only 2 chose to take advantage of the offer, Carnival reinforced the notion that the incident was minor – understandable upsetting – but handled.

The last part is the only piece of the press release that feels a little like a dig at the media.

Most of the guests on board were not even aware of the incident until the last 24 hours as word circulated and our passengers heard from friends and family who saw media reports.  Needless to say, the tremendous positive attitude of our guests and crew is proof of why we are America’s favorite cruise line.

Cruise ships are like floating cities. If your neighbor has a flood, you might find out when you see the plumbers show up. If the house two streets over floods, you won’t know unless it shows up on the news . . . or Facebook.

We here at Reputation Refinery say “bravo” to the PR team and the management of Carnival Cruise Lines for their deft handling of what could have been a very damaging social media blowout.

It was an ALMOST perfect plan. On the day of the flood, Carnival’s social media team posted a cute video of an underwater skin diver signaling us to “hang loose”. The caption reads: Hang loose, or, as we say underwater, float normally!

A weird coincidence that could have made it look as though the company was making fun of the concerned passenger’s flood video. Final lesson: social media channels have a delete button. Use it if recent posts hit too close to home during a corporate crisis.

68% of consumers would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information online

When was the last time you looked your company up online? Read your own website? Checked out how you look on Google or how you show up on Google Maps? It may have been a long time since you looked for information on your business but your customers, and even more importantly, your potential customers are looking you up every day and what they find may be keeping them from visiting your business.

According to Bright Local, 80% of consumers lose trust in local businesses if they find incorrect or inconsistent contact details when they look a company up online.  It may seem like a rare occurrence, but according to the survey, quite a few people have had problems with incorrect information.

  • 36% have called a wrong number for a business that they found online.
  • 25% visited a business only to find it didn’t actually offer the product or service that was advertised online.
  • 24% arrived either too early or too late because the hours they found online weren’t correct.  (I’m surprised that isn’t a bigger number because this has happened to me many times.)

Overall, 71% of consumers have had a negative experience because of incorrect local business information. That’s a huge portion of your consumer base that could be misled because you haven’t checked out your details.

Let me tell you a little story. Yesterday afternoon, I used Google Maps on my phone to find a restaurant in an area I’d never visited before. It told me there was a deli only 6 minutes away, so I followed the directions and ended up in the middle of a business park. Weird, but I figured it was one of those small shops that cater to the businesses in the area. I was starving, so why not?

Why not? Because the business wasn’t where Google said it was. I don’t know if they went out of business or they didn’t have their suite number on the address. They didn’t have any images of the deli online so I couldn’t compare it to the buildings in front of me. The more I drove around, the more frustrated I got. I left hungry and frustrated and if there really was a deli at that address, you can bet I’m never to look for them again. They lost me as a customer and the pizza place down the street got my business.

My actions fell in line with the 30% of respondents who said they’d go to a competitor if they had the wrong address for a business. So what does everyone else do in that situation?

43% said they would call the business to confirm the address. I think this is a misleading statistic because it’s dependent on the type of business and the needs of the consumer. In my case, I was simply looking for a place to eat so I wasn’t going to bother digging up a phone number and driving even further out of my way. Now, if I was looking for a doctor’s office or a retail store that was holding a product I wanted, I would have called to ask for directions.

Which leads to yet another problem, particularly for small businesses who can’t afford to lose a single customer; they don’t always have the manpower available to answer the phone when it rings. Sounds weird, but I’m amazed by how many business calls go straight to voicemail. Before you pay for a receptionist, Bright Local says to consider your customer demographics. The survey found that women and customers over 55 were more likely to call for help. If these are your people, make sure you have hours and directions on your voicemail or hire someone to answer the phone.

If your audience is primarily young males, don’t worry about it. Male consumers said they’d rather give up looking than call for help.

As a business owner, we know it’s not always your fault when Google says your store is on North 5th Street when it’s really #5 on North Street. Was it the deli’s fault that their listing was bad? Probably not, but they’re the ones who lost my $20, not Google Maps.

Only 18% of those surveyed said that bad information was the fault of the listing site. 31% said the fault lies completely with the business and 51% gives you half the blame and that pretty much still leaves you in out in the cold. Think about it – are your customers going to stop using Google because they got your hours wrong? No, but they will get mad at you.

Bottom Line: 68% of consumers would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information in online directories – and it doesn’t stop there. 50% of consumers said they would lose faith in a business if they saw poor quality or out-of-date photos online. This doesn’t just apply to your website, outdated social media pages look just as bad.

The good news is that this is an easy fix. Follow this link to update your business on Google. Then double check your own website and social media pages. Update the photos, make sure your address, directions and phone number are clear and easy to find on the page. Check that your hours of operation are correct and that they match the season (if your hours are different in the summer than during the holidays, note it on the page!)

Most of all, make sure your site looks alive and well, otherwise customers are apt to think that your business is out of business and then they’ll take their business somewhere else.

Two-thirds of consumers say it’s important for brands to take a stand

How do you feel about the state of the world? Are their hot-button topics that you’re extremely passionate about? How do you feel about expressing those thoughts under your company’s banner on social media?

Scary thought, isn’t it? But a recent poll conducted by Sprout Social says that two-thirds of consumers believe it’s important for brands to take a public stand on social and political issues. Did you catch that big word in there: they didn’t just say it was okay if brands took a stand, they said it was important!

Still worried? Of course, you are. What if your customers don’t agree with the stance you take? Sprout Social says, there are more rewards than risks, but I’m not sure the numbers total up right. 44% of consumers said they’d buy more if they agree with a company’s agenda. But 53% said they’d purchase less if they don’t agree. 33% said they’d go as far as boycotting a brand.

And then there’s the issue of believability. Just because you say you’re in it for the greater good, doesn’t mean people will believe you and trust you. Publicly pushing an agenda that’s big in the news can come off as pandering. What’s worse? If consumers think you’re doing good with the right hand to cover up the bad you’re doing with the left, you’ll be much worse off.

The best way to avoid the appearance greed over good is to make sure your cause fits your brand. For example, if a diaper company is fighting for clean water and prenatal care in underprivileged countries, that’s a good match.  If a beer company starts providing free school lunches, that’s another story.

Consumers say brands are most credible when an issue directly impacts their customers (47%), employees (40%) and business operations (31%).

There are a few topics that consumers agree, have a more global reach such as human rights, labor laws, and gender equality. Consumers were almost evenly split on the topics of immigration and LGBTQ rights, with a near equal number of people saying companies should take a stand always, never, or only if it relates.

Ready to take a stand? Super. 58% of consumer surveyed said they’re fine with you making your point through social media. Just don’t expect to change their minds on important topics. 66% said posts from brands “rarely or never” influence their opinion on the issue.

Then what’s the point of sticking your neck out? People want to do business with human beings, not corporate entities. When your CEO hands out bottles of water to disaster victims, that’s human. When your restaurant gives free food to the local homeless shelter, that’s human.

The biggest reasons to take a public stand? Because when you don’t speak out people will assume you either don’t care or don’t agree. Either way, it’s a deep ding to your reputation.

If it’s important and you believe in it with all your heart. Take a stand.

Apple & Google take a massive drop in latest reputation poll, Amazon still #1

When you think about leadership, vision, profitability and social responsibility; what companies come to mind?

Harris Insights asked 25,000 American citizens that question and they published the results last week as part of the 19th annual Harris Poll Reputation Quotient study.

For the third year in a row, Amazon landed on top but its usual cohorts – Apple and Google didn’t make the grade.

Two years ago, the tech trio landed 1, 2, 3 but this year Apple dropped from 5th to 29th and Google went from 8th to 28th!  What happened?

A spokesman for the Harris Poll said that Apple’s lack of innovation (in other words “what have you done for me lately”) caused the drop but recent news reports paint a different picture.

“The Apple Store is my own personal hell”

“You don’t know what depression is until you have booked an appointment at the Apple store.”

“Why is going to the Apple Store like going to the DMV?”

Ouch. Forget the clean lines and “Genius Bars” – customers simply want to be served without having to flag down an employee or wait 2 hours for their turn.

Google’s diversity scandal certainly helped the company fall, but there has to be more to it to go from 8th to 28th. Perhaps the public is getting nervous about the amount of control Google has over their online life. . . and exactly what are they doing with all of the personal data they collect?

And speaking of personal data, Facebook gained a little ground this year, but they still came in at #51 on the list. That’s crazy, considering how much time the average person spends on Facebook. Would you spend that much time with a friend who was 51st on the “who do you trust” list?

One company that shot up in the ranks this year is Tesla Motors. With their highly-visible CEO Elon Musk shooting cars into space and digging futuristic high-traffic tunnels, it’s a wonder the company only came in third.

But it’s not all pie in the sky. According to the Harris Poll, Americans are even more in love with the simple chain stores that fulfill our basic needs. Four of the top 10 companies are grocery stores. Fast food wunderkind Chick-fil-A came in 4th, right above The Walt Disney Company. Making the top ten for the first time is clothing retailer Patagonia, who made the grade thanks to their commitment to the environment and overall sense of corporate responsibility.

On the opposite end of the corporate responsibility scale, we have The Weinstein Company and Japanese Auto parts supplier Takata (99th and 100th respectively). Both companies have been involved in history-making (for all the wrong reasons) scandals involving sexual misconduct in the Weinstein case and airbag deaths for Takata.

Wells Fargo and Equifax have a long way to go before they are released from the bottom ten. And they’re joined by The Trump Organization in the bottom five.

What we learn from all of this is that the public is paying attention. They know about the scandals, but they know about the good behavior, too. Sure, they want products that work and good customer service, but they also want to know that the companies they support are socially responsible and that they care about their employees.

Remember this; The Harris Poll only deals with the top, most recognizable brand names in the country but if they conducted a poll of small businesses in your area, where would you land on the list?

Emotional Appeal. Products & Services. Social Responsibility.  Vision & Leadership. Workplace Environment. Financial Performance. Are you an innovator like Amazon? Slipping like Apple or in the doghouse like Wells Fargo? If you’re anything less than top ten, it’s time to make some changes in how the public views you and your business.

Wow! 20% of “right to be forgotten” requests to Google came from just 1% of requesters

If Google seems a little lighter to you than did a few years ago, it’s not your imagination. Over the past three years, the search engine has delisted around a million URLs at the behest of someone in Europe who didn’t want those links to pop up anymore.

Why would they do such thing?

Because the European court told them they had to.

It’s all part of the 2014 “right to be forgotten” decision that allows citizens to ask Google to delist pages that reference personal information. For example, a politician can ask Google to delist a newspaper article about his recent brush with the law.  Or a newly appointed CEO can ask Google to remove links to the controversial Facebook page he started in college.

In all fairness, people can also ask Google to delist pages that give out their home address, detailed financial information, or wrong information that is causing confusion.

This week, Google posted their first “right to be forgotten” transparency report (which sounds like an oxymoron to me) and it’s very interesting.

In the past three years, Google has received 654,876 requests to delist a total of 2,437,271 URLs. 89% of the requests came from private individuals. Most were interested in hiding “professional information” with only a small percentage looking to dodge “professional wrongdoing” (7%) or “crime” (8%).

The requests were evaluated to determine if the “information in question is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive”—and whether there is a public interest in the information remaining available in search results.”

Using that criteria, only 43% of the requests were granted.

Off all the sites impacted by the removals, social media was hit the hardest. Google has received removal requests for 16,623 Facebook pages, 12,396 Twitter pages, 12,000 Google Plus pages and 9,250 YouTube pages.

It’s also interesting to note that 20% of requests came from 1% of the people. This could be the work of our European counterparts in the reputation management business.

To Delist or Not to Delist. . .

For Google, figuring out which requests to grant and which to deny is tricky. And judging by the example cases in the transparency report, the decision is somewhat – maybe entirely – subjective.

For example, a man in Spain asked Google to delist a newspaper report about his having killed a person with his car. The incident happened 50 years ago, so Google decided to delist because of the time elapsed.

When a public figure in Hungary asked to have articles about his “decades-old criminal conviction” removed, Google said no. Since he’s a public figure, they felt that information should remain as part of the public record.

The award for the most ironic request goes to this one:

Request

A man who was convicted of benefits fraud in 2012 asked us to delist nearly 300 articles related to the conviction based on a document he provided suggesting he was later found innocent of the crime.

Outcome

We delisted 293 URLs pursuant to the documentation the requester provided. The requester then asked us to delist several other pages related to his separate conviction for forging documents. After re-reviewing the original document he submitted as proof of his innocence in the benefits case, we discovered that it was a forgery. We reinstated all of the URLs we had previously delisted.

That’s right, the forger gave Google forged documents to prove his innocence. Seriously, whoever has the job of following up on these cases in Europe must have the patience of Job.

Here in the US, we don’t have the “right to be forgotten” but that doesn’t mean you have to live with malicious or innocently erroneous mentions on the web. You can’t ask Google for help, but you can ask us.

For over a decade, we’ve helped individuals and companies to clean up their search engine results page (SERP) and present a better reputation to those searching their name. Our reputation experts analyze each individual web page, identify strengths and weaknesses, and then get to work refining your search engine profile so that your Google reputation is squeaky clean. No black-hat techniques, no empty promises, and no long-term contracts. We’ll earn your business from day one and then keep working until you’re satisfied with your Google makeover.

Click here to contact our team and we’ll set up a free consultation.

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