Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When Tragedy Hits Your Company

When is the right time for a company to acknowledge a failure or tragedy on its website? Immediately? Not at all?

Two couples on an excursion from a Princess Cruise Lines Alaska journey were killed along with their pilot when a sight-seeing floatplane crashed in rugged terrain yesterday. Princess has already announced permanent cancellation of all excursions with the tour company, Taquan Air, out of Ketchikan, Alaska. A visit to Taquan's website shows a company proud of its pilots and its well-serviced fleet. No mention of the tragedy, not even on their "Press" page.

Planes crash. It's tragic, but it happens. And I'm sure there was some sort of waiver signed by the passengers that acknowledged the inherent dangers of flying that kind of plane in that kind of environment, absolving the company of obligation in the event of a crash. But is the company responsible in this Age of Information to say something like "We deeply regret....grieve for the losses..." anything like that? Would American or United do such a thing on their websites in similar circumstances? Not likely.

But I think in this case, the answer is yes. They've got to address it somehow. Not only did Taquan just kill four paying customers, they lost one of their pilots. And once the shock of that tragedy wears off, they will wake up to the reality that they also lost a huge revenue stream in cruise line passengers from Princess, who quickly took care of their own PR disaster by announcing the permanent shunning of what was, until yesterday, a trusted partner. And with the news out there on the front page of Google, you know Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and all the rest will be looking over their lists of excursion partners and consider dumping Taquan.

How do you fix this? Is it fixable? Is Taquan screwed? Should they rebrand and get away from the now soiled Taquan name? You PR types feel free to weigh in.

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  • I've noticed small towns--and small businesses, for that matter--tend to work at their own pace which can be extremely slow at times. However, this is a big crisis for any company to handle, let alone a small one, and they're probably using all their resources right now to figure out why this accident occurred. The shock of losing one of their pilots is probably also taking a toll on the staff and community. I would hope that Taquan Air tries to reach out to the victims' families first before they distribute a comment publicly.
    Since this only happened yesterday, I can see why they haven't put anything out there yet (unless it's been just to the local media and the national hasn't picked up on it yet). Also, from a legal standpoint, they've got to be careful with how they approach a statement ... they don't want to admit fault too quickly I guess, but I would hope they would put something out there within the first 24 hours.
    Unfortunately accidents happen, and my heart goes out to the friends and family of the 2 couples and the pilot.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 25, 2007 at 11:01 AM  

  • I don’t know. While tragic, it’s not typical for companies to openly discuss these matters. Should every Disney Park death be followed by a press conference starring a weeping Mickey Mouse? As anonymous also noted, I would imagine the lawyers strongly recommend silence to reduce increased damages in the inevitable legal settlements.

    By Blogger HighJive, at July 25, 2007 at 1:09 PM  

  • damned if they do, damned if they don't.

    poor everyone involved.

    By Blogger anna kate, at July 25, 2007 at 1:45 PM  

  • The difference here, HJ, is Disney deaths occur once a year and it doesn't affect business. This is a small business that could likely go under as a result of this accident.

    As AK says above...

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at July 25, 2007 at 2:59 PM  

  • I'm with anonymous and HJ

    Taquan probably has about 5 employees and paid someone to build the site for them.

    Their priorities in the first 24 hours are mourning the pilot, dealing with the press and their lawyers, overcoming the shock.

    Bigger companies like Six Flags are better equipped for this sort of thing.

    CK had an interesting take on this same issue on her blog.

    By Blogger Toad, at July 25, 2007 at 3:03 PM  

  • Taquan Air should have done a better background check on this pilot. He worked for us and we fired him he also worked for at least two other companies that asked him to resign. He was a problem employee and a marginal at best pilot.

    By Blogger Michael, at July 30, 2007 at 1:19 PM  

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