Would we survive our own Concordia-on-the-rocks catastrophe?

marketing misfortune

For that special evening on an Italian Cruise











It is not just high-profile consumer products brands and oil companies that experience marketing nightmares.

This photograph and caption arrived in my email inbox today. Judging by the number of times it has been cc’d, I guess it has been widely circulated by now.

Carnival Lines suffered the disaster of the Costa Concordia running aground with the tragic loss of life, farcical behaviour by the captain, huge financial loss, not only of the ship but potential revenue from future voyages and the embarrassing PR fallout. If that was not enough, a few weeks later another of its ships became stranded at sea with mechanical problems and had to be towed to port, unhappy but relieved passengers eventually disembarking in the full glare of the media.

It just shows that disasters can happen at the most damaging times, from the most unexpected causes and in un-imagined combinations.

Carnival almost certainly have the resources to recover from these disasters and ride out the storm of unfavourable publicity. Accidents happen at sea, time will dim the memory of those images of the great ship on its side in the shallow water off an Italian island. Sun bronzed, happy passengers will survive future voyages and spread the word that a cruise ship is safe.

Already some 6 weeks after the sinking, more newsworthy events have replaced the spectacle of an allegedly cowardly captain carelessly hitting the rocks and then abandoning his ship and his passengers. Killings in Afghanistan, the Republican nomination campaign, fighting in Syria, the new iPad are all occupying the prime media spots now.

But what if a similar but smaller scale disaster had affected a smaller business, then followed by another separate but equally damaging event? Would most small to medium size businesses have the resources to survive? Both in terms of financial reserves and insurance coverage to cover costs and legal issues,  to manpower and expertise to counter adverse publicity?

Eternal optimism is almost a pre requisite to being a business owner or entrepreneur. We would not survive long if we were not. But optimism and faith in the future can also make us complacent, lead us to believe that it can’t happen to us. That lightning does not strike in the same place twice, that even if we were unlucky enough to get hit by one bad upset we surely could not be unlucky enough to experience it twice.

It can and does, I have had unbelievable combinations of unwanted and unpleasant events combine to turn my life upside down. I am not the only one, it happens more frequently than we like to think about. It happens to big operations like Carnival, small businesses, solo entrepreneurs and famous sports stars like Tiger Woods.

That photo and the sad tale of the Costa Concordia and its sister ship are good reminders for all of us to look critically at our own businesses, perhaps our personal lives too.

  • How is our insurance coverage for assets, liability and lost income.
  • Alternate office, production and storage premises.
  • What resources could we call on to help us recover.
  • Do we have a PR plan to salvage our reputation.
  • Strategy for social media after a catastrophe.

That is just a start, each business will have its own critical areas that need thinking about.

What about you, do you have a disaster recovery plan for your business?

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.

Peter Wright

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  1 comment for “Would we survive our own Concordia-on-the-rocks catastrophe?

  1. March 14, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    It seems to me that balancing optimism with realism and prudence is critical in most any business or profession. The fact is that a small business faced with several bad crises in a row probably won’t survive. But having a business fail is not the end of the world nor the end of one’s life. I think like the fish sang in Finding Nemo you have to just “keep swimming, keep swimming…”

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