Carnival in Crisis (yes, AGAIN) Over Failed CDC Inspection

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    When it rains, it pours. Just ask Carnival’s crisis management team.

    In yet another blow to a Carnival Cruise Line’s barely-standing reputation, a CDC report detailing the failure of the ship “Fascination” to meet cleanliness and food service standards is making the media rounds.

    Here’s a sample of what’s being said, from an ABC News article by Genevieve Shaw Brown:

    A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave an “unsatisfactory” rating to the Carnival Fascination, essentially a failing grade on a health inspection. A satisfactory rating from the CDC is a score of 85 or higher. The Fascination scored an 84.

    The report outlines violations ranging from not enough chlorine in the pool to flies and a “roach nymph” found at a juice dispenser. In one case, there was no “sneeze guard” over some items on the food line.

    Would we be calling this revelation, from a report written February 21, mere days after the Triumph finally made port, a crisis if Carnival hadn’t been in the middle of a string of disasters? Honestly, probably not. Just missing a passing score on inspections really isn’t all that unusual for the food service industry, especially for buffet-style eating where food is served in such massive quantities, and typically the story wouldn’t even make the news.

    The fact that Carnival’s reputation has already been put in question is the one reason why this story, and any single negative incident that occurs surrounding the company for at least the next couple of months, is going to be headline news.

    Thing is, that’s the problem with allowing your reputation to slip. You have no cushion of goodwill to fall back on, no brand ambassadors to leap to your defense, and reporters know that any story where a tarnished brand is being heaped with more mud is an easy sell to both editors and readers.

    Carnival is going to have to be, literally, flawless in its operations, as well as much more proactive in terms of its crisis management and reputation repair efforts, if it wants to swing the court of public opinion back its way. Unfortunately, right now the company is up a creek, and, from the looks of it, nobody’s paddling.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]