5 Crisis Management Tips from Royal Caribbean International

Let’s face it: it’s next to impossible to expect the unexpected. However, what is feasible is to hone the ability to respond to the unexpected with grace. Royal Caribbean International tested this truth a few months ago when Mother Nature spun up a sea storm in the Atlantic, putting the Anthem of the Seas cruise ship and thousands of passengers in jeopardy. A decision needed to be made—and fast. Would Anthem of the Seas stick it out, or play it safe at shore?

After swift and thoughtful deliberation, Royal Caribbean International responded with a plan of action that would calm the waters on-and-off deck. Anthem of the Seas was heading home—cutting travelers’ vacations a few days short.

Passengers immediately took to social to share their experience, stirring up mixed reactions to the decision: some vying for the priority of safety over all else and others clinging to the trip that could have been.

More than weather woes

Soon, however, mumblings around a potential norovirus outbreak took the conversation down a less enchanting road...

...and Royal Caribbean International’s official news handle confirmed the virus outbreak.

For you social marketers out there, I’m sure your customer-care-focused stomachs are in knots after reading through this scenario. Take a deep breath and prepare yourself for some pro tips from the Royal Caribbean International social team, so that you aren’t stranded at sea the next time a social care crisis edges your own horizon.

Tip #1: Make a decision, and stand by it.

When a final decision was made to turn the ship around, Royal Caribbean International stayed consistent, and their social messaging didn’t skip a beat. The cruise line turned to Spredfast to publish the message on their official social channels, and applied labels in Conversations to track how the conversation unfolded in real-time. This real-time tracking allowed them to keep their hand on the pulse of guest and media reactions, and maintain a consistent, informative dialogue with relevant parties.

Tip #2: Be real, be quick, and be relevant.

Because being agile and on-point is critical in situations like these, Royal Caribbean International placed a heavy emphasis on tracking top trends and topics in real-time. The social team looked to Spredfast data to formulate a conversation around what people wanted to hear about, when they wanted to hear it. “We created an Anthem of the Seas topic in Intelligence so it was easy to go into the topics tab and pull the specific date and time we needed,” said Kristin Perera, Community Manager at Royal Caribbean International. “When issues arose, we were easily able to run a search for specific terms with the aid of the Advanced Search tab.”

They analyzed the volume of conversation forming around the #AnthemoftheSeas decision, and crafted responses around the topics that mattered the most to this audience—whether that was the status of the storm, norovirus, or other topics.

Tip #3: Keep your internal stakeholders involved and aligned at all times.

Resolving unexpected incidents is not a one-man conquest. Royal Caribbean International engaged their full team—from executives to PR to customer support—to remedy the situation. Ensuring all parties were fully aligned, Royal Caribbean International relied on tried-and-true data to right their course. Using social as a free source of data, the social team pulled top content that was being shared, along with the top accounts sharing it. They shared these insights with the broader internal team to generate awareness and determine next steps. “Leadership was very interested to see the volume of tweets and how they changed throughout this crisis,” said Perera. “Intelligence made it easy to find the tweet volume for one period of time and compare it to another, such as the same time yesterday.”

Tip #4: Know when enough is enough.

There’s no need to yammer on about something that’s already sailed away (pun intended). By analyzing Spredfast data, Royal Caribbean International was able to compare Tweet volume over time to see when the conversation dropped to a point where a reaction was unnecessary. There comes a time when continuing the dialogue becomes fanning the flames, and Royal Caribbean International team was savvy in identifying this turning point.

Tip #5: Learn...and live.

More often than not, lessons are learned the hard way—and that’s okay. Royal Caribbean International has taught us that there is a right way to bounce back from a challenging situation: use your learnings to arm you for the future.

“With the help of Spredfast’s tools, we were able to take a deep dive into the situation and resolve it on social,” said Perera. “We’re now better prepared to manage and react to the unexpected the next time it hits.”

Don’t let the sting of the word “crisis” send you into a downward spiral. Step up to the plate, or in Royal Caribbean International's instance, the deck, and take control of the situation with solid, data-based decisions.

And it wasn’t all bad news, either: In case you’re wondering, Gigi, the 32-foot mascot of the Anthem of the Seas, is doing well!

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Caitlin Cavanaugh is the Brand Marketing Manager for Spredfast, where she spends her time building the world’s most #SmartSocial brand through the power of customer voice. When she’s not chasing a revolutionary success story, you can find her embarking on her next hunting or fishing expedition or baking up a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies.