Successfully reported this slideshow.
To: Mr. Forrest W. Anderson and Mr. Devin Knighton
From: Ms. Abigail E. La Croix
Issue: Research Project Request for Proposal
Date: February 21, 2016
Research Project Request for Proposal (RFP)
Managing Carnival Cruise Line Corporation’s Crises
Recovering its Corporate Reputation
Carnival Cruise Lines Corporation (Carnival) has been plagued by a series of disasters since it
began its operations in 1972 – accidents, technical malfunctions, port stop cancellations, and
mechanical failures, resulting in passenger deaths and countless lawsuits.
The issues timeline span several decades beginning in 1972 when the company’s first cruise
ship, the TSS Mardi Gras, ran aground on a sandbar during its inaugural voyage. Then in
July 1998, soon after the Carnival “Ecstasy” departed from Miami, a fire started in the main
laundry room. The following year, a fire on another ship - the Tropicale's engine room caught
fire, leaving the ship in the path of Tropical Storm Harvey.
In 2005, the company was both praised and criticized for its Katrina-related efforts - Carnival
received $236 million in exchange for three ships to be used as temporary housing for Katrina
Between 2006 and 2007, two separate passenger deaths caused another PR dilemma for the
brand. In May 2006, a Philadelphia man jumped off his balcony on Carnival's 'Legend' after an
argument with his wife. The tragedy happened off the coast of Bermuda. A little over a year
later, an 18-year-old from Houston also jumped to his death from a Carnival ship. According to
the Houston Chronicle, his jump may have been premeditated.
In November 2010, another Carnival cruise ship had a fire on board. The generator room on
Carnival's 'Splendor' caught fire, causing the ship to lose power. According to CBS News, 4,500
passengers were trapped at sea for over 24 hours with very little food and no A/C or hot water.
The ship was towed to San Diego. And January 13, 2012, cruise ship, Costa Concordia owned by
Carnival capsized and sank after striking an underwater rock obstruction off Isola del Giglio,
Tuscany Italy, taking 32 lives.
Then again in February 2013, passengers spent almost a week stranded without running water
or air conditioning, after Triumph’s engine room caught on fire.
The repercussions of those disasters have weighed heavily on Carnival. Strong media scrutiny
and unfavorable customer sentiment has damaged Carnival’s corporate image, lowered its
profit margins, and eroded the financial bottom line.
The purpose of this research study is to first assess communications, reputation, and
relationship management issues, to gain an understanding of next steps and best practices
approaches on what to do and how to help Carnival. Through this secondary research and
analysis, I will acquire the insight to determine what “methodologies, methods, analytical tools,
assessments and evaluation” (Michaelson & Stacks, 2014, p. 79), would be crucial in developing
an effective communications plan that would resolve and eliminate Carnival’s problems,
improve results, and support the company in regaining its competitive superiority.
The goal of this research study is to gather substantial secondary research data from multiple
sources, including organization-specific, industry/market-specific, function-specific and
national/international sources, to help identify new opportunities and threats, as well as ways
for Carnival to reclaim its corporate reputation, and improve the bottom line. Moreover, it
would aid decision-makers in defining best practices.
The research objectives are expected to guide the programming and aid in my strategy towards
achieving the aforementioned research goal defined above.
§ By February 29, 2016, complete secondary research, including environmental
monitoring and SWOT analysis of Carnival Corporation, to determine strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as gain a better understanding of market
dynamics and Carnival’s competitive positioning
§ By March 15, 2016, complete secondary research, which will include a customer survey
of Carnival’s key publics, including employees and vacationers/tourists (i.e. middle-aged,
young adults, millennials, children, families, couples and singles), who enjoy traveling,
good food, and entertainment activities at an affordable price, to assess trends and
changes in public opinion. This data gathering would help determine the self-interests of
travellers in order to communicate to them about the cruise line’s value proposition
§ By March 31, 2016, wrap up all secondary research, as well as primary research, which
will include in-depth interviews and focus groups
§ By April 7, 2016, complete data analysis to identify all operational challenges that need
to be addressed
§ By April 14, 2016, craft a communications strategy to address the key issues of
o Improving Carnival’s image;
o Increasing Carnival’s profitability and;
o Enhancing Carnival’s operational safety and efficiency programs
Foundational research will focus on Carnival’s ability to improve upon its services to consumers,
as well as operations/safety and reputation management. These three key issues are outlined
below based on: Questions of Definition; Questions of Fact; Questions of Value and Questions of
Questions of Definition
§ Are customers provided with adequate service options?
§ How can Carnival enhance the customer experience?
§ How can Carnival tap into unexploited markets?
§ Does Carnival have an effective crisis plan in place to protect the safety of its
Questions of Fact
§ How will Carnival regain its customers’ trust?
§ What can Carnival do to repair its once pristine reputation?
§ What made Carnival the number one cruise liner in the world?
§ How will the corporation stay ahead of the competition for the long-term?
Questions of Value
§ Is Carnival providing patrons with the best bang for their buck?
§ What incentives can Carnival offer to increase market share?
§ How does Carnival regain its reputation and credibility when faced with insurmountable
§ Has Carnival changed the lives of any of its patrons over the years?
Questions of Policy
§ Should Carnival have changed its organizational management?
§ What should Carnival do to improve its operations and avoid future problems?
§ Why should Carnival have taken corrective action sooner?
§ Why should Carnival have engaged the media after they bashed the corporation?
Thus, it is important for Carnival to set distinct goals that are specific, measurable, achievable,
realistic and time-focused, to evaluate whether the corporation can deliver actionable results to
its stakeholders. Through measurement and evaluation, I can gauge Carnival’s progress, and
inform whether my results will meet the expectations of key stakeholders. Therefore, I plan to
measure the effect of quantity and quality of communication outputs; outcomes that align with
goals and business objectives; and outtakes that measure success against goals, to guide
Carnival’s continuous improvement.
The outputs will utilize traditional, social and digital media to convey Carnival’s message.
Through news clips, message tracking, news placements, quality of coverage, conversations,
communities and audience impressions, I can gauge whether Carnival has the ability to regain its
corporate reputation and retain a competitive advantage.
The outtakes will measure awareness, favorability, integrity, comprehension, attitude, behavior,
and impact on organizational results. So, I will conduct a pre- and post campaign survey of
Carnival’s target audience, to determine changes before and after the campaign. By surveying
stakeholder expectations, I can verify what types of products and services consumers want and
expect rom Carnival. This critical knowledge and data from consumers’ general
feedback/discussions about Carnival’s business operations will be instrumental in helping the
corporation achieve its goals and business objectives.
By gathering all of the essential data from outputs, I will acquire the crucial knowledge and
adeptness to identify new opportunities and threats, and find ways to circumvent potential
risks. The outcomes will measure success against the corporation’s goals, and offer insight about
Carnival’s capacity to increase its bottom line and become the No. 1 choice of cruisers once
again. With the capability to increase its favorability amongst passengers, improve sales, and
define best practices approach, Carnival will eventually reclaim its corporate reputation and
Implementation Approach & Rationale:
To ensure that I have all of the essential knowledge that is crucial to accomplishing meaningful
communications objectives and organizational business goals, the research implementation
process will incorporate both secondary and primary research. And, I will employ both
quantitative and qualitative techniques to ensure validity and reliability of results. First, I will use
the quantitative survey technique, to establish a baseline/benchmark, and offer insights about
current perceptions of Carnival, as well as identify key concerns, best business regions, opinion
leaders, and types of media to follow. This secondary research will also help to inform strategic
recommendations for media relationships and key messaging strategies.
Likewise, the primary research, which follows the secondary, will include the qualitative focus
groups and in-depth one-on-one interview techniques. This research data will produce essential
actionable knowledge, to further enhance and guide my messaging and outreach strategies, to
ensure positive public reaction and achievability of business goals. My exploratory research will
address the following sources: Organization-specific, industry/market-specific, function-specific
I will conduct research from reliable sources relevant to Carnival’s history, including a review of
the following to ascertain historical data/information and to determine market sentiment.
§ Carnival company news archives
§ Carnival customer satisfaction surveys
§ In-depth interviews with long-term Carnival employees
§ Customer focus groups
§ Carnival case studies
The cruise industry provides newsworthy and relevant information for operators of cruise liners
and charters that help them keep pace with market trends, and meet the needs of travelers.
Through comprehensive research of the following sources, I will gain insight into the company’s
brand reputation in the marketplace, as well as identify trends, opportunities/challenges within
§ Trade newspapers/magazines, LA Times, Houston Chronicle, Huffington Post and PR
§ Television broadcasts – CNN, CBS and ABC News
§ Library periodicals/cruise industry travel news
§ YouGov BrandIndex Competitive Surveys
§ Internet travel/tourism news
These sources serve as the eyes and ears of the industry, so any information obtained and data
gathered, will be instrumental in helping Carnival identify issues, understand customer
sentiment and market perception, and keep an overall pulse on the market.
§ Advertising Age, YouGov BrandIndex, PRSA and J.D. Power & Associates cruise industry
§ Carnival cruise line blogs
§ Carnival travel news, vacation, tourism websites and links
§ Carnival Social Media content and engagement
§ Carnival competitor news, products and services
National and International
These resources will distill information on whether the vacation charter has maintained
compliance with operational codes, government rules/regulations and any failure to comply, or
sanctions imposed. Additionally, it would help to provide projections and data on ports,
travellers/vacationers and their likelihood of taking a cruise with the vacation charter versus a
§ Cruise Line International Association
§ International Maritime Organization
§ Senator Charles (Chuck) Schumer and the Department of Congress
§ Global Travel Agency Services
§ Travel Agent Members Databases
Sampling Methodology and Size:
Since Carnival already has the email addresses for their customer base, I will create and conduct
an Internet-based (email and web) customer satisfaction survey to determine customer
sentiment and market perception of key stakeholders regarding their overall experience with
The survey method will entail probability sampling. Using a simple random sample of Carnival’s
travellers, I can ensure that each member of the population has the same chance of being
selected, and thereby avoid biases. Thus, ensuring that the results I get will conform to
My aim is to send preliminary email communication to all stakeholders. The email will include a
link to the survey on Carnival’s website, as well as passwords to ensure that respondents are
part of the selected sample group. Given that Carnival had a 62,368 passenger cruise capacity in
2015, I need 382 survey respondents, to get to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of
The survey will comprise 10 questions, including range-scaled inquiries and about 2-3 open-
ended questions, to get an overall measurement of sentiment around a particular topic or
experience, and to also collect specific data on factors that contribute to that sentiment.
To provide some context around the representative sample group, and confirm that I have
indeed surveyed the intended target audience, I will also include, a demographic, education and
The qualitative research plan will involve interviews and focus groups. I will conduct in-depth
one-on-one interviews with long-term Carnival employees and repeat customers to gauge their
opinions and reactions about the corporation and it operational efficiency. The first stage in the
process will begin with a 2-5 minutes screening questionnaire to identify the right participants
by ensuring that they uniquely match the criteria for the project, so that the objectives of the
study will be met.
The typical screening questions will be written in such a way that it masks the intent or focus of
the study, and guarantees that respondents answer honestly and they do not project
preconceived attitudes or biases. Some questions may include preferences, attitudes, personal,
demographic or household characteristics.
In terms of focus groups, respondents will be identified via a similar screening questionnaire
used for the interviews, and will be conducted by a third-party research vendor using a sub set
of the Carnival population, who share common backgrounds and interests. Since it would be
costly to survey the entire population via focus groups, I would want a representative sample of
about 200 travellers between the ages of 25-75, who cruised with Carnival within the last six
months in 2015, and plan to take another trip with the cruise liner in the future.
These focus groups can help Carnival assess its communication programs, as well as reactions to
events and other pressing concerns.
Research Instrument Using the Quantitative Technique:
While there are a variety of research instruments that can be used for this project, I have
decided that a descriptive survey using the quantitative technique is more economical, and
therefore the best approach. To that end, I’ve outlined the following questions that are
designed to provide Carnival with actionable results.
Welcome! We appreciate your business and want to ensure that we continue to provide the
best vacation experience in the world at the most affordable price. Please take the next 3-5
minutes to tell us about you last trip with Carnival, and you will be entered for a chance to win
a cruise for two, upon completion of the survey. Your personal information will remain
confidential, and your feedback will help us enhance our services to you. Thank you for your
1. What is your age?
25 to 34
35 to 44
45 to 54
55 to 64
65 to 74
2. When was your last cruise with Carnival?
3. Where was your cruise destination?
4. On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1=best and 5=worst, please rate how much you enjoy
Cabin 1 2 3 4 5
Casino 1 2 3 4 5
Food 1 2 3 4 5
Entertainment 1 2 3 4 5
Music 1 2 3 4 5
Shops 1 2 3 4 5
Shore Excursions 1 2 3 4 5
Special Events 1 2 3 4 5
5. Please tell us how could Carnival have improved your trip?
6. On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all likely, and 5 is extremely likely, how likely is it that you
would recommend Carnival to a friend or family member?
1 2 3 4 5
7. Why did you vote the way you did to the question immediately preceding this one?
8. When do you plan on taking your next cruise?
9. What is the highest level of education that you have completed?
Did not attend school
Did not graduate high school
Graduated high school
Graduated from college
Some graduate school
Completed graduate school
10. What is your approximate average household income?
$200,000 and up
Implementation Timeline and Budget Estimate:
The implementation timeline will take into account the secondary and primary research periods,
as well as the time it takes to gather and analyze the data. Since the secondary and primary
research will be conducted concurrently, the timeframe will likely be the same, unless the third-
party researchers who are conducting the focus groups and in-depth interviews run into some
type of delay.
Given that an Internet survey and the responses can be immediately deposited into a database
or analytical tool, it will speed up the return and analysis. Therefore, in keeping in line with the
aforementioned research objectives timeline of approximately 1-1/2 months from the beginning
of secondary research on February 29th
, to crafting a communications strategy on April 14th
an additional two weeks for any unforeseen circumstances, the total implementation process
should take roughly two (2) months.
Secondary research can be internal and readily available, but most of it comes from external
sources, which can be found at your library or online. However, to ensure accuracy, it may be
better to invest in an analyst or consultancy, which can charge as low as $250, to as high as
$1,000. While the primary research quantitative survey will be administered online, it also
reduces cost significantly. Still, the qualitative interviews and focus groups, as well as associated
costs will add the bulk of expenses to this project. Based on research to ascertain the cost of
surveys and focus groups research, these are the findings:
Table A. shows the price based on compensation for one survey participant within the focus
group, and one focus group session.
Type of Services
Low-end Cost of
High-end Cost of
Email survey $3,000 $5,000
Analyst Report $250 $1,000
Focus Group Participant Compensation $35 $50 x 200
Focus Group Survey Session $4,000 $6,000 x 2
Survey Sweepstakes - Cruise for 2 $2,500 $5,000
Total Project Cost $9,785 $17,050
Table B. below represents the actual estimated cost of research, based on 200 focus group
participants and a two-time focus group session, to arrive at sound conclusions. Therefore,
Table B. offers a more accurate representation of a budget estimate for this project, which can
be as low as $20,750 to as high as $33,000.
Type of Services
Low-end Cost of
High-end Cost of
Email survey $3,000 $5,000
Analyst Report $250 $1,000
Focus group Participant Compensation *$7,000 *$10,000
Focus Group Survey Session **$8,000 **$12,000
Survey Sweepstakes - Cruise for 2 $2,500 $5,000
Total Project Cost $20, 750 $33,000
* Includes 200 focus group participants
** Includes 2 recommended focus group
sessions to arrive at a sound conclusion