Burson-Marsteller called in to cover Costa Concordia disaster

Carnival, the holding company of Costa Cruises, has called in Burson-Marsteller to handle the corporate and crisis comms around the Costa Concordia disaster.

Costa Concordia: ran aground off the Italian coast (Rex Features)
Costa Concordia: ran aground off the Italian coast (Rex Features)

Burson-Marsteller MD Clarence Mitchell started working on the comms last night.

Rooster, the UK & Ireland PR agency for Costa Cruises, has also been handling media relations throughout the weekend.

Michele Andjel, head of PR at Carnival UK, told PRWeek that the company is working with the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) on press enquiries and ongoing updates.

The Costa Concordia, which had more than 4,000 people on board, flipped on its side after hitting a rock on Friday night off Italy's west coast. At least six people have died in the accident.

The first statement from Costa Cruises was released at 1am CET on Saturday, detailing how many people had been evacuated and that it was ‘currently working with the highest commitment to provide all the needed assistance’.

The comms response of both Costa Cruises and the general cruise industry to the disaster could have been more effective, according to one travel PR practitioner.

Brighter Group executive chairman Steve Dunne said: ‘It’s clear that the PR function there has been slow to react and take control of the situation. To have members of staff being interviewed and using terms like there was "mass panic" on the ship smacks of people not being briefed properly.’

Dunne went on to say that the disaster was not just Costa Cruises' problem but an industry problem – saying that it had had a ‘wake-up call’.

He said: ‘For 30 years cruise holidays have been the golden child of the travel industry with sales continuing to climb. This accident has caught them on the back foot and it has amazed me that nobody from the industry, especially the Passenger Shipping Association, has stepped forward to defend crusies and their safety record.

‘Somebody needs to be combating the pictures of the Costa Concordia sinking being broadcast across the world’s media and the word Titantic being used.'

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