Archive for January, 2012

A Customer Service Disaster

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 23, 2012 by innovativemediapr

The tragedy associated with Costa Concordia’s crash off the Italian island of Giglio is one of epic proportions.  The more than a dozen passengers that have perished, the others still missing, and the trauma faced by those that safely fled the cruise ship, combined with the news reports of potential negligence on the part of the ship’s Captain, makes this voyage one that will live in infamy.

As a person who has been on seven cruises, with my first being on the Costa Riviera back in 1986, this tragic accident really gave me pause to think of how often I have taken for granted the safety drills conducted by these cruise ships I’ve sailed on.  Thousands of people each week are told to report to their muster stations on the first day of the cruise, most of the time before the ship leaves port.  This August, I sailed on a Carnival ship from New York, leaving one day before Hurricane Irene hit.  Our Captain instructed us we would veer 300 miles east to avoid the major impact of the storm. Even so, that next day at seas was the roughest I’ve ever experienced on a cruise ship.  Carnival did a good job of keeping passengers informed and I must say when we underwent the muster drill, I paid extra attention, knowing we were facing riskier conditions at sea.

Despite the misfortune of the Costa Concordia, I have not been deterred from cruising and I look forward to scheduling one in the next year or so. However, it certainly will not be with Costa, which is owned by Carnival Corporation.

How this company has responded to this crisis has rewritten the textbook on how not to do customer relations.  Just over the past day, the company announced it was not going to offer full refunds to the passengers of the ship but was going to provide a 30% discount for future cruises.  Below is an excerpt from a Gawker.com story, which cites a news story in the British Telegraph newspaper:

Those passengers fortunate enough to survive last week’s cruise ship disaster will be happy to know that their next seafaring vacation will come at a reduced cost. Costa Cruises spokespeople confirmed to the Telegraph that, “The company is not only going to refund everybody but they will offer a 30 per cent discount on future cruises if they want to stay loyal to the company.”

As the Telegraph story states correctly, this offer is an insult to these poor people that have been traumatized by the ineptness and negligence of their ship’s officers.  Eventually, law suits as deep as the Mediterranean are certain to abound.

Is this what Costa management should be offering?  What are they doing on other ships to reinforce ship safety?  They should be out front with new safety initiatives as they deal with this crisis, not insulting passengers with a 30% offer on a future cruise.  These are individuals that are thankful for being alive, let alone getting on another ship.

Costa should show humility and make sure they not only get to the bottom of what truly happened, but make sure these passengers are cared for, receive whatever they need to get home safely and ensure that they provide whatever resources it takes to ensure there is no environmental disaster off the Italian coast.

Costa’s customer service right now should be focused and committed to the safety of its passengers. That’s all. Forget about marketing cruises.  The survival of their busieness is at stake and how they deal with safety is crucial to whether anyone will book a future cruise with them again.

Instead of embarrassing themselves further they should take a page out of what Royal Caribbean’s CEO and President has done.

I have only cruised once on Royal Caribbean, yet I am on their email marketing list.  Today, I received the following letter from the CEO, reinforcing the company’s commitment to safety.  I thought it was a nice touch to reaching out to their consumers and outline their commitment to safety.

Dear Thomas,

All of us at Royal Caribbean International continue to extend our heartfelt sympathies to those affected by Carnival Corporation’s recent tragic incident on the Costa Concordia. As a Crown & Anchor Society member and loyal Royal Caribbean guest, we know you may have some questions as the situation continues to unfold.

At Royal Caribbean International, the safety and security of our guests and crew is our highest priority. It is fundamental to our operations. Our maritime safety record over our 42-year history illustrates our commitment to the safety of the millions of guests and crew that sail on our ships. The measures we take in the interest of safety are many, often exceeding the regulatory requirements – these are all part of our ongoing commitment to innovation and continuous improvement in every aspect of our business.

To address some of your questions and concerns, here is a video that will provide an overview of safety onboard our ships; the training of our crew, officers and captains; and the many regulations that govern our practices. Click here to watch.

As a past cruiser, we know your friends and family may be asking about your own time at sea. We hope that you’ll share this video along with your personal Royal Caribbean experiences with them, and reinforce that cruising continues to maintain the best safety record of any industry in travel.

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to welcoming you aboard again soon on one of our ships sailing to 270 destinations worldwide.

Sincerely,

Adam Goldstein

President and CEO

Royal Caribbean International

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A Day to “Wine” with Pride

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2012 by innovativemediapr

Yesterday, prior to delivering his State of the State address, Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill making New Jersey the 39th state to allow direct shipping of wine to consumers. The law takes effect on May 1 and applies to small wineries anywhere in the country that produce less than 250,000 gallons a year. It gives New Jersey wineries the right to do what wineries in 38 other states currently can, directly ship wine to the homes of consumers within and out-of-state.

This was an effort that iMedia Public Relations has jointly worked on with our sister agency, Capital Public Affairs, for the past three years. We are proud that we played a role in bringing this legislation to fruition and equally proud that it was done using a total grassroots approach. The passage of this legislation was a total David vs. Goliath struggle pitting our firms and the small wineries in New Jersey matched against the powerful liquor lobby intent on keeping in place its three-tiered system of distribution of wine. Our argument, which we made continuously, was that the majority of New Jersey wineries produced too small a quantity of wine to be of interest for wholesalers. Our effort was focused on helping the New Jersey wine industry, currently seventh in the nation in production of wine, continue to grow by expanding their distribution network and at the same time giving New jersey wine consumers greater choice.

In December 2008, Capital Public Affairs launched http://www.uncorknj.coma website that provided information on the importance of giving New Jersey wine consumers the same choice that the majority of states in the U.S. had the ability to order wine and have it directly shipped to their homes. The site also provided news updates and gave consumers the chance to contact their legislators directly from the UnCorkNJ site. This site was launched in conjunction with the start of a lobbying effort in the legislature to bring this cause to the forefront of legislators and begin the process of developing legislation to seek the enactment of direct shipping. The original client was AmericanWinery.com, but after a few months they ceased their involvement. Thus, for some time, Capital Public Affairs pursued this on its own until about two years ago, when Tomasello Winery, the state’s largest winery, came on board as a client. iMedia began serving as the agency for Tomasello Winery and also served to help promote UnCorkNJ.com.

In December 2010, a U.S. Court of Appeals Federal Court ruling effectively ruled that New Jersey wineries were operating in an unconstitutional manner by not allowing out-of-state wineries to operate retail outlets and tasting rooms in the state. New Jersey had unconstitutionally discriminated against out-of-state wineries by permitting only in-state vintners to sell directly to consumers. The appeals court sent the case to U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden in Newark to preside over the constitutional challenge. Her options were twofold, either give out-of-state wineries the same right, or prohibit all wineries from selling directly to consumers. Judge Hayden extended her deadline for New Jersey to correct the situation to March 21, 2012. Failure to act on this could mean the closure of retail outlets and tasting rooms in New Jersey which would effectively close many of the state’s wineries. Over a dozen new wineries in New Jersey are frozen from being licensed until this matter is resolved. The effort then turned to merging a remedy for this situation into the direct-shipping legislation.

This process started with putting this issue in front of media throughout the state, making them aware of the danger facing New Jersey wineries that would be threatened with having their retail outlets and tasting rooms closed by Court order unless the state remedied the situation by enacting legislation. In June, we held a press conference at the statehouse in Trenton with former Governor James Florio, whose firm represented the Garden State Winegrowers Association, winery owners and my partner Steven Some of Capital Public Affairs representing UnCorkNJ.com. The purpose was to raise the seriousness of a pending deadline placed on New Jersey wineries by the District Court. At that point, the legislation did not have enough votes to pass.

However, U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden in Newark gave New Jersey legislators a deadline of March 21, 2012 to remedy the situation before acting. Throughout the summer and fall, we continued to make our case both legislatively and through the media. This issue was strongly endorsed by editorials in nine leading newspapers in the state.

Newspapers that published editorials in favor of the legislation were:

Burlington County Times, Courier Post, Daily Record, Express Times, Gloucester County Times, Newark Star Ledger, Philadelphia Inquirer, Press of Atlantic City and Trenton Times. In December, S-3172, sponsored by Senate President Sweeney, passed the Senate 23-13 with bi-partisan support. The accompanying measure A-4436, sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski, Assemblywoman Celeste Riley and Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, passed with amendments on the last day of the legislative session on January 9, 2012.

This legislation was signed into law by Governor Christie yesterday morning. In his State of the State speech later that afternoon, the Governor said the NJ Comeback had begun. For the New Jersey wine industry, the future was just beginning. We are proud to have played a small role in planting the seeds of its growth.

Tom Cosentino

iMedia Public Relations President on NJTV Tonight

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2012 by innovativemediapr

Tonight on NJTV’s NJ Today newscast, I will be interviewed as part of a news segment devoted to legislation allowing for New Jersey wineries to direct-ship wine to consumers in and out of the state, as well as preserving the retail outlets operated by New Jersey wineries.

On Thursday in Trenton, the Assembly Budget Panel, by a vote of 7-0-4 advanced and released A-4436, out of committee bringing this piece of legislation to the floor of the Assembly for a full vote on Monday, January 9.

This is an issue that iMedia Public Relations and our sister agency, Capital Public Affairs have been driving for almost three years. We created www.UnCorkNJ.com, a grassroots community of wine enthusiasts in New Jersey to help lobby for legislation that would give New Jersey wineries the right to do what wineries in 38 other states currently can, directly ship wine to the homes of consumers within and out-of-state. The proposed legislation also allows small out-of-state wineries that produce 250,000 gallons of wine and under each year to ship directly to New Jersey consumers.

A-4436, sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, is a vital piece of legislation that ensures the future of the New Jersey wine industry, bringing New Jersey wine to a national market of 38 other states that allow direct shipping, while also preserving farmland and creating jobs in New Jersey.

This issue has been strongly endorsed by editorials in eight leading newspapers in the state. You can access each editorial by clicking here. Newspapers that have published editorials in favor of the legislation are:

Burlington County Times
Courier Post
Express Times
Gloucester County Times
Newark Star Ledger
Philadelphia Inquirer
Press of Atlantic City
Trenton Times

 
A year ago, a Federal Court ruling effectively ruled that New Jersey wineries were operating in an unconstitutional manner by not allowing out-of-state wineries to operate retail outlets and tasting rooms in the state. The Federal Judge extended her deadline for New Jersey to correct the situation to March 21, 2012. Failure to act on this could mean the closure of retail outlets and tasting rooms in New Jersey which would effectively close many of the state’s wineries. Over a dozen new wineries in New Jersey are frozen from being licensed until this matter is resolved.

A-4436 remedies that situation by allowing out-of-state wineries to open retail outlets in New Jersey. Senator Sweeney sponsored S-3172, which the Senate passed with bi-partisan support, 23-13 in December. This bill, and its accompanying piece of legislation in the Assembly, rectify the situation and protect the retail operations of NJ wineries, while allowing them to ship wine directly to consumers.

Those of you in New Jersey that are in favor of giving New Jersey wineries the chance to grow their industry can show their support by contacting their Assembly representatives and urging them to pass this bill on Monday. You can do it directly through http://www.uncorknj.com.

Tom Cosentino