Posts filed under ‘Social Media’

Recovery at Sea – What Carnival Cruise Line’s Disaster has to teach businesses

Is there something positive that can come about from the recent ill-fated cruise of the Carnival Triumph?  I think so and I wrote about it in this week’s Hartford Business Journal(  (

Here’s what Carnival has to teach all of us:

Keep Your Stakeholders Informed Early and Often – Here, Carnival got 50 percent of the equation right.  They did, indeed mobilize all media, both traditional and contemporary, to tell their story.  But it kicked in later than a 140 character world would like.  By the time Carnival CEO President Gerry Hill made his first statement on February 12, the ship had been disabled for two days and its condition widely reported in the media. 

Once Carnival’s efforts did kick-in, though, they were timely and productive.  Carnival Cruises’ crisis team created a dedicated page on the Carnival website for news updates.  They also mobilized web-based media with consistent updates via Facebook and Twitter.  Throughout the crisis, Carnival’s social media team posted 20 updates to their Facebook page. (By the way, that page already had more than two million likes, illustrating the need for companies to have their social media programs firmly in place before a crisis.) 

 In addition, Carnival used two Twitter feeds (@CarnivalCruise and @CarnivalPR) to issue updates.  Those updates included “news you can use” as well as tweet that shined a positive light on what they were doing to keep people informed.  Here’s an example: “We’ve taken more than 7,000 calls from family & friends & have been in regular contact with our guests’ designated on-shore contacts.”   One caution here: early on in the crisis, Carnival’s Facebook updates were repetitive, covering the same details over and over.  Most likely, there wasn’t much to add to the story at that time, so I would have advised skipping those repetitive posts.  Since Facebook updates are right next to each other, repeating yourself looks like you’re more interested in just saying something than saying something that adds to the conversation.  That looks a bit disingenuous.  I’d rather see updates that are just that – new information. 

 Issue and support informative, apologetic and compassionate press releases – Your first message in any crisis needs to be a show of compassion and concern to for those affected.  Carnival’s first release did just that.  And it was bolstered by the fact that it appeared to come directly from their CEO, Gerry Cahill.  It reviewed the facts as they knew them, explained that their safety systems kicked in to contain the fire and made sure to say there were no immediate injuries.  Then, it explained what Carnival was doing to bring the ship into a port, outlined what compensation the passengers would be getting, and concluded with: “We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience, discomfort, and frustration our guests are feeling. We know they expected a fantastic vacation, and clearly that is not what they received. Our shipboard and shore side teams are working around the clock to care for our guests and get them home safely.”  This statement, and all others throughout the crisis, was well supported with properly dated and time-stamped messages via Carnival’s social media.  This allowed anyone following the crisis to spot the latest information easily.

Make the most of your press releases – Carnival’s social media team kept journalists up-to-date with their social media, letting members of the media know when the releases were to be held and when they could be tweeted.  In addition, their social media posts had links to press releases on their site and their Facebook posts had embedded links to press releases.

Using Social Media to Listen and Respond – The cruise line’s social media team also carefully monitored online discussion, addressing questions that came up on line. Most importantly, they used Twitter to address and correct rumors.  Given the length of this crisis, the longer it went on, the more likely rumors were to grow and gather steam.  They did their best to stop them.

Mark the End of the Critical Phase of a Crisis with a Thank You – Carnival’s team made its most important contribution to the future of the cruise line when the ship made landfall.  Upon landing, they posted “All Carnival Triumph guests should be back home with friends and family by now…Crew will be making their way to other ships or back to their homes over the next few days.  Thank you to our incredible guests, tireless team members and everyone who provided assistance this past week.  Best wishes to all as their journey comes to a close.”  These were immediately followed up with five more tweets that reviewed Carnival’s dedication to “great vacations”; apologies to guests, family and friends and more thanks to those who helped end the situation, such as the Coast Guard.  This followed an in-person dockside apology by Carnival CEO President Gerry Hill when the ship landed in Mobile.  His heartfelt expression of concern and gratitude appeared genuine.  Unfortunately, his attempt to “personally” deliver his message to each of the passengers onboard fell flat.  It was carried over the public address system while the passengers were clamoring to get off the ship.  Many didn’t even hear it or care to at that point.

Make it right with action that lets people know you “get it” – Although no one can undo the mental and physical impact of such an ordeal, Carnival’s gone a long way to make things right.  Passengers will receive a full refund, credit for a future cruise, a flight home, and reimbursement for most onboard purchases plus $500.  Much controversy is swirling around whether Carnival’s done enough, but the extent of their settlement offer tells me they are trying to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, it won’t be enough for some.  The lawsuits kicked in less than 48 hours after the ship landed and the online ads from law firms trolling for “wronged” passengers are proliferating.

Recovery from any crisis is a slow and difficult process of rebuilding trust with words and deeds.  Those of us who handle crisis communications also know that recovery from multiple, related crises can be particularly difficult.  That’s the case for Carnival.  Their recent disasters have included a similar fire aboard the Carnival Splendor in 2010 and the Costa Concordia crash in 2012.  These will make recovery especially tough.  My observation is that they have the team and tools in place to do just that.  And the message to all of us in business is that recovery is possible with compassion, concern and a wiliness to make the most of the people and technology at our disposal.


March 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

How Blogging Can Benefit Your Company

By Katrina Lennon, Account Coordinator, Andrea Obston Marketing Communications LLC.

A blog is for someone that wants to share with the world why they love their bunny rabbit or why they need to lose 10 pounds right? Wrong! Yes, some bloggers like to talk about their sometimes boring and irrelevant thoughts but there are others who are utilizing it as a business tool. Case in point: us.

Blogs are incredibly powerful tools that can help people, especially businesses, position themselves at the forefront of a particular industry. They are becoming an essential corporate tool that communicates knowledge and expertise to target audiences. They are also a great way to show people that there are actual human beings working behind that logo; people will feel much more comfortable and connected to your company if they have a sense of who you are. Michael Wiley once said that “blogs can help bring humanity back into the workplace. We have become so concerned with communicating numbers and processes that employees have forgotten how to build relationships…blogs help create a culture that supports those behaviors”.

Some additional benefits of a corporate blog include:

  • Creates a community –When you allow people to comment on blog posts and share them through various social media channels, you are stimulating and encouraging a conversation to take place and therefore creating an online community around your brand.
  • Acts as a drawing board – As you prepare to write a blog post some research might be involved. The whole process allows you to gather thoughts, plan out what you are going to say and then reflect on it all in your post. It might just give you an idea for your company’s “next big thing”.
  • Keeps you connected to your audience – It can be easy to lose sight of your audience’s needs. Sometimes you think you are giving them what they want when really you are headed in the wrong direction. Monitoring the conversation that takes place on your blog will provide you with the insight needed to stay on course. Think of it as free research!
  • Increase web traffic – Search engines love blogs because of their search engine optimization tools. By creating tags for each post you are creating opportunities for your company’s blog to show up on search engines like Google. The more you use those tags, the higher up in the searches you will find yourself.
  • Connects you with potential customers – With great search engine optimization, people searching for ____ might just stumble upon your company while conducting a search. Long behold they love your blog and decide to get in touch with you!
  • Advertising and marketing is changing – Traditionally, advertising and marketing basically threw information in people’s faces, saying “hey listen to me! I have something to say”. With technological advances people can now block out unwanted advertising (think TVo and call waiting) meaning people are searching for information rather than being told. When people read blogs it is because they want to be there reading what you have to say. It is a great way to connect with audiences and adopt this new way of advertising.
  • It’s free – Well, for the most part. Some blogging platforms offer upgrades for a price however this is not necessary. There are plenty of features that come with a free membership and will work just as well as an upgraded blog.

Head spinning yet? Relax; blogging does not have to be that difficult. There are a handful of sites that offer an easy interface where you can quickly and easily write down your thoughts and publish them for the world to see. Check out, and Movable Type for straightforward blog templates. Feeling adventurous? Take a look at for a more comprehensive blogging platform.

More and more businesses are jumping on board with corporate blogs. Do you want to be left behind? Create one today and start realizing the benefits so many others are enjoying.

Comments, Questions, Answers, Suggestions?



April 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm Leave a comment

Social Media – Take Two Breaths and Email Me in the Morning

By Andrea Obston, President, Andrea Obston Marketing Communications, LLC

If you’re feeling guilty, outdated or downright dowdy because your business is not using social media, consider this column your safe island in the storm. “Just do it” may work for Nike, but it has no place in your marketing efforts.

The mere size and speed of social networking has made everyone sit up and take notice.  The mantra, “If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s third largest” is enough to make any business person’s heart go pitty-pat.  Or consider this: a recent Consumer Reports’ “State of the Net” survey said that “…two out of three online U.S. households use social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, nearly twice as many as a year ago.”  Feeling the old guilt about missing the boat creeping into your brain?  Stop it!  I promise this will be a guilt-free read.  So continue on without fear.

If you get nothing else from this column, take this one thought:  Just because a marketing tactic exists it doesn’t mean it’s right for your business.  Social media is one of many ways to reach your customers.  Some have been around since the 1920s, when young Allen Odell convinced his father to allow him to put up small wooden roadside signs to pitch their product,  Burma Shave.  And some were invented within the last few years like blogs, Facebook business pages and You Tube channels.  They all work in some form or another.  But they won’t necessarily drive the right customers to your bottom line if they don’t suit your marketing objectives and their needs.  The real bottom line here is that any marketing effort starts with the answers to a few key questions:

  • Who are your most profitable customers?
  • What do they want from your business?
  • How do you deliver it?
  • Why would they come to you instead of your competitors?
  • Where do they go for information before they buy?
    • How can you make them into loyal customers who come back and send in their friends?

Essentially I am asking you to decide who you are, who you want to be in the eyes of your customers and how you can deliver what they want.  Once you know that, you can be a more intelligent marketer on all fronts.

Okay, enough of Marketing 101.  What about this crazy idea of social media?  Let’s start with a definition: Social media is web-based communications which seek to set up a conversation; a relationship.  They are interactive, personal and something that people invite into their lives.  Contrast that with advertising which essentially intrudes into your customers’ lives.  Think about it – people turn to their Facebook page as an activity.  Ads interrupt an activity (say reading the newspaper) to deliver their message.  So, if you’re interested in really maintaining or creating a dialogue with customers and prospects, then social media – be it a Facebook fan page; a You Tube Channel, or a blog – may be for you.  Use them to offer practical advice that your customers will want to read and pass along, such as tips on dealing with some of the problems your product solves.  Businesses that use social media to talk about themselves (“We had 50 people here for a terrific sale on Wednesday”) offer nothing that anyone would want to pass along.  Before you post that blog or tweet that tweet, ask yourself, “Is this something someone would want to share with a friend?”  If the answer’s yes, tweet away.  If it’s no, tell your mother.  As with any marketing effort it’s not about what YOU want to say it’s about what YOUR CUSTOMERS want to hear.

Think of the social media world as one giant cocktail party.  When you go to such functions, who do you end up spending your time with?  The person who offers you an interesting conversation or the one who assaults you with diatribes about themselves?

So, here are a few tips on whether or not social media is for you:

  • Do you or someone on your staff have the time to devote at least five hours a week (throughout the week) to updating and monitoring social media?
  • Do you have access to a 20 year old who can do this for you, has existing experience on the web and can be trained on what you offer well enough to essentially hold social media conversations about your business?
  • Do you currently participate in social media AND ENJOY IT?
  • Do you cater to the kind of customer who can answer yes to the question above?
  • Do you understand that your picture of the average social media user may be way off?  A few facts here:

The average user of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn or My Space is more affluent and more urban than the average American, according to Nielsenwire.

A profile of users of social media from a site called Royal Pingdom tells us:

  • Those 35 to 44 dominate users of social media
  • The average social network user is 37 years old.
  • LinkedIn, with its business focus, has a predictably high average user age; 44.
  • The average Twitter user is 39 years old.
  • The average Facebook user is 38 years old.
  • The average MySpace user is 31 years old.

So what do you do next?  Before subscribing to the “Just Do It” principle I suggest you do two things: 1) Look long and hard at the customers you want and how they use social media and 2) Get a lot more literate about creative uses of social media.  Start by reading two wonderful blogs: Mashable and FreshNetworks.  Get smarter; get more comfortable with your choices and get going in the way that best suits your business.

No guilt; no worries; just bottom-line communications.  However that looks.

Comments, Questions, Answers, Suggestions?



April 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

Getting the Most out of LinkedIn

By Katrina Lennon, Account Coordinator, Andrea Obston Marketing Communications, LLC

Did someone once tell you to set up a LinkedIn profile? It probably went something like this; “LinkedIn is the professional Facebook. It’s great for business and networking. You really should be on there”. Did I get it right? So you took that leap and created a profile. But now what?

There are many people out there on LinkedIn who have no idea how to use it to their advantage. They think that simply being on LinkedIn is enough. I am here to tell you that you are wrong. If you haven’t done so already, you should learn how to mine the riches that LinkedIn has to offer.  In this column you will find a wealth of information to help you tap into LinkedIn and use it to your advantage.

  • Complete your profile – The first step you must make is to complete your profile. See that annoying bar on the right hand side that says you are only ____% complete? Do what they suggest in order to get that all the way up to 100 percent mark.  One of the things this requires is asking for recommendations from other people on LinkedIn. Aim for four or five people from different areas (different jobs, a colleague, a superior, a friend etc.). Ask for recommendations from a wide range of people covering the full span of skills and knowledge you have acquired throughout the years.
  • Expand your network – LinkedIn is a networking site, so use it to its fullest.  Search for people you know with the search box in the upper right hand corner.  Ask them to join your network.  Both of you will benefit.  In addition look at the networks of people to whom you’re connected for people you’d like to know.  Ask them for an introduction. Lastly check out the “people you may know” block you’ll find on your homepage. Going through this list every once in awhile will alert you of people you may know who are also on LinkedIn.  Add them to your network.
  • Join LinkedIn Groups – Another way to expand your network is to join LinkedIn groups. These are people who share common professional interests or fields of work.  There are many groups out there covering all sorts of industries and interests. Once in a group you can do any (or all) of the following to build up your LinkedIn community:
  1. Participate in discussions
  2. Create your own discussion thread
  3. Post an article
  4. Connect with people in the group
  5. Think about creating your own group
  • Update your status frequently – The idea here is you want to keep a steady LinkedIn presence so your connections recognize your name. Remember, some of your connections have never personally met you before so reminding them what you can offer them as a connection is important. Your status updates show up in their feed and act as this reminder.
  • Explore the “More” tab – Once you have successfully done the above, why not have some fun with it? LinkedIn has a handful of applications that you can add to your profile. This option is under the “More” tab on the top of your page and then under “Application Directory”. According to LinkedIn, applications “enable you to enrich your profile, share and collaborate with your network, and get the key insights that help you be more effective”. My personal favorite it tripit, which allows me to let my connections know when I will be in town so we can meet up for a networking cup of coffee.
  • Get familiar with LinkedIn Answers. This is also under the “More” tab and then “Advanced Answers Search”. This tool allows you to search for topics in your area of expertise to find a question you want to answer. Some experts in the field suggest a few ways to get involved on LinkedIn Answers. They include:
  1. Do some research on the person asking the question to find a way to tie in a more personalized response
  1. Provide all that you can when answering the question (website links, tips, recommend an expert to them, etc.)
  2. In your answer give them an invitation to contact you privately for more help

Establish meaningful relationships with LinkedIn – Here are  several tips from some of the best minds in social media:

  • Watch your timing
    • As soon as you make some sort of connection on LinkedIn don’t wait weeks or even months before interacting with your new connection. Ask them a question, pay them a compliment, ask for an introduction to someone else etc.
  • Take advantage of events
    • LinkedIn has a feature that allows you to create an invite to an event. Keep an eye out on your connections and what events they might be attending. You can also look at the RSVP list of an event. Connect with a few of those individuals and get in touch with them before the event either through a message (if they are a connection) or an inmail (if a second or third degree, or no group connection). Let them know that you will be at the event and are looking forward to meeting them in person.
  • Sync geography with your travels
    • Most of the time, you will have connections from all over. If you are traveling somewhere on business click on the “contacts” tab up top and then on the “locations” link on the left. This will tell you how many of your connections are in each area. If you have some free time on your business trip, suggest meeting up with some or all of your connections in that area for coffee, lunch, a small networking dinner
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for advice
    • Reach out to an influential connection and ask them for advice. explains crafting your message as follows: first introduce yourself and explain who you are, reference a common connection, give a genuine comment, ask for advice with an explanation of why you are asking.
  • Become a resource
    • Find out where you can add value by keeping an eye on status updates and group discussions. Your value can be added insight, advice, finding a new connection etc. Once you are seen as a resource, your connections will classify you as a valued relationship in your network.

And for the grand finale, use your url to ask people to connect with you on LinkedIn. You should encourage everyone you meet to connect with you on LinkedIn in order to expand your network.

So have I convinced you that simply being on LinkedIn is not enough by now? Follow these steps and you will be the person telling others how wonderful and beneficial LinkedIn is.

Comments, Questions, Answers, Suggestions?



March 30, 2011 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

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Andrea Obston, President

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