The corporate blame game employed by the owners of the Costa Concordia of figuratively hanging Captain Francesco Schettino out to dry continues to turn disaster into reputational catastrophe.
It takes down with it not only the company’s good name but also the safe and fun-filled images of cruising.
It also sustains a frenzy of black humour centred on national stereotyping of Italians as big in the mouth and trouser department but short on valour in a crisis.
The challenge was, of course, immense. No thousand words of PR strategy and press statements can ever redress the balance imprinted on the consciousness by the image of the stricken ship half submerged.
But the authors of the strategy must have realised that the legend of the one ‘rogue captain’ was unsustainable. Who employed him? Who trained him? Who checked on his continuing competence?
What were his fellow crew members doing while he steered the ship close to land in a show-off manoeuvre before abandoning his passengers to their fate?
All these questions impact directly on the corporate culture of Costa Cruises. The PR strategy has still not addressed them.
The internet’s black humourists may feel that the inane line uttered by the caricature skipper that he ‘fell’ into the lifeboat rather than deliberately abandoning his passengers was worth the – fortunately relatively few – lives lost.
It wasn’t and should never have been allowed to have been uttered.
A basic PR strategy would have addressed the corporate responsibility as well as minding the pronouncements of the apparent halfwit the company had entrusted with 4,000 lives.
Maritime recovery of the ship will be easy compared with salvaging the sunken reputations of all concerned with wrecking her.
Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun