Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

Specificity in Language Can Prevent Misunderstandings

PR crisis responseThe vultures are circling the reeling Costa Cruises brand following the wreck earlier this month. There is already plenty of analysis of what transpired so I won’t retrace those steps. But I do want to examine one seemingly minor aspect of the crisis response that offers an important lesson for crisis communicators.

In the days following the mishap, company spokespersons sought to alleviate the concerns of those who had been scheduled to go on a future cruise of the Costa Concordia. For those who no longer wanted to go on a future cruise, the company offered a full refund. For those who did want to continue with their plans for a cruise, they offered a 30 percent discount.

Somehow this ended up getting all mixed up and it created unnecessary challenges for crisis communications responders.

A report, “Costa Concordia: ‘insulting’ cruise offer to survivors,” in The Telegraph included the following quote from an unnamed Costa Cruise spokesperson:

“The company is trying to do everything they can for those passengers directly affected.

“The company is not only going to refund everybody but they will offer a 30 per cent discount on future cruises if they want to stay loyal to the company.”

Based on how the two quotes were presented, it is evident that they were probably not a single thought or back-to-back sentences when delivered, but they were published that way — creating the impression that the company was offering the victims of the accident a 30 percent discount on a future cruise. It apparently was confusing enough that the person responsible for writing the summary of the article wrote:

“The owners of the Costa Concordia are offering survivors of the disaster a 30 per cent discount off future cruises as they battle to stave off law suits expected to cost hundreds of millions of pounds.”

Needless to say, the suggestion that the victims of the cruise ship disaster were being offered a discount off a future cruise further damaged the company’s reputation and created another distraction for crisis communications responders. The story spread everywhere in a matter of hours and, despite the efforts of the crisis team to clarify that the offer was not for the victims of the disaster but for their customers who were inconvenienced by it, the vast majority of inaccurate and outraged reports have not been corrected.

One publication that has tried to correct the record is TIME. Like just about everyone else, it originally offered an account of the report from The Telegraph on January 23rd, but has since required updating not once but twice. On January 24th, TIME posted an update to the story that linked to an article in the Miami Herald, “Carnival Cruise Lines faces a hostile PR tide,” which reported:

“It’s unclear if the offer was actually floated…Costa briefly refuted the stories, then retracted the denial — the latest flashpoint in a public-relations response that has both Costa and Carnival’s Doral headquarters under fire.”

Then on January 25th, TIME posted another update to the story, which now has the headline, “Costa Cruises Denies Giving Cruise to Concordia Survivors.” The latest update includes a statement from Costa Cruises (note: the emphasis is mine):

“With reference to news reports on discounts and promotional offers, Costa Cruises feels bound to point out that the company has never offered any discount on future cruises to guests who were on board the Costa Concordia for the cruise of January 13th and involved in the tragic accident. The information published by a newspaper and reported in various news outlets is totally unfounded, as is confirmed by the English passenger who was quoted by the newspaper.”

Okay, now I think we’re all on the same page. It is a great illustration of why exactness of speech — specificity of language — is so important in a crisis. What in other circumstances would be a subtle or even humorous misunderstanding can extend the life-cycle of a crisis or even turn into a full blown crisis of its own. The lesson is to be mindful of how every word, phrase, sentence and image could be interpreted and take appropriate action to be as exact as possible in the language used to minimize the likelihood of further damage.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Daniel Keeney

Dan Keeney is the president of DPK Public Relations, which represents PULSE, The Aldridge Company, Schipul - The Web Marketing Company, Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication, ERHC Energy, Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Arocha Hair Restoration among other companies. Specialties include helping organizations increase their positive visibility and establish and strengthen relationships with influencers in their markets.

Latest Stories
"We are a monitoring company. We work with Salesforce, BBC, and quite a few other big logos. We basically provide monitoring for them, structure for their cloud services and we fit into the DevOps world" explained David Gildeh, Co-founder and CEO of Outlyer, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Automation is enabling enterprises to design, deploy, and manage more complex, hybrid cloud environments. Yet the people who manage these environments must be trained in and understanding these environments better than ever before. A new era of analytics and cognitive computing is adding intelligence, but also more complexity, to these cloud environments. How smart is your cloud? How smart should it be? In this power panel at 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, paneli...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann and Aruna Ravichandran have been named Co-Chairs of @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley which will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "DevOps is at the intersection of technology and business-optimizing tools, organizations and processes to bring measurable improvements in productivity and profitability," said Aruna Ravichandran, vice president, DevOps product and solutions marketing...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
Hardware virtualization and cloud computing allowed us to increase resource utilization and increase our flexibility to respond to business demand. Docker Containers are the next quantum leap - Are they?! Databases always represented an additional set of challenges unique to running workloads requiring a maximum of I/O, network, CPU resources combined with data locality.
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Int\ernational Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their ...
Join us at Cloud Expo June 6-8 to find out how to securely connect your cloud app to any cloud or on-premises data source – without complex firewall changes. More users are demanding access to on-premises data from their cloud applications. It’s no longer a “nice-to-have” but an important differentiator that drives competitive advantages. It’s the new “must have” in the hybrid era. Users want capabilities that give them a unified view of the data to get closer to customers and grow business. The...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists looked at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deliver...