NEWS: Cunard seeks safe PR harbour with agency

Cunard Lines is trawling for a PR firm to manage a new consumer, corporate and crisis PR brief in an attempt to rescue its battered image.

Cunard Lines is trawling for a PR firm to manage a new consumer,

corporate and crisis PR brief in an attempt to rescue its battered

image.



Eric Flounders, PR manager for UK and Ireland at the Trafalgar House

subsidiary, has shortlisted six agencies to pitch at the end of June.



Cunard’s media relations and crisis management have been handled mainly

in-house by Flounders’ team of three.



The division has tackled a series of widely reported PR catastrophes

over the past two years, including the disastrous QE2 ‘building site

cruise’ after a refit in 1994.



In an bid to improve media relations, last August Cunard hired London-

based travel PR specialists Ann Scott Associates for a seven month

project to organise press tours of its ships. Flounders describes the

arrangement as a ‘partial success’.



‘The new brief will include escorting press groups,’ Flounders

explained. ‘But there is also a large volume of work and full blown

crises, although I’m not saying we are expecting more of those.’



The ill-fated refit cruise of the QE2, once the jewel in Cunard’s crown,

was widely described in the press as a ‘PR disaster’ with the company

paying out millions to disgruntled travellers.



In an article for PR Week, Flounders likened his team’s efforts to

tackle the crisis as ‘like trying to pee on the Great Fire of London’.



Following the refit, Cunard’s image has continued to suffer. In February

its liner Sagafjord was crippled by a fire in the South China Sea and

last month its ship the Royal Viking Sun struck a coral reef in the Gulf

of Aqaba.



Kvaerner, the Norwegian shipping giant which bought Trafalgar House in

March, has yet to find a buyer for Cunard, which is valued at around

pounds 230 million, although P&O is reported as being interested. ‘We

have had quite a few ripples on the pond in the last few months,’

commented Flounders.



Cunard is expected to announce the appointment of a senior PR executive

in the next few weeks.



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