CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS IN SHIPPING
Role of PR.
Overview of the company.
P.R. System of the company.
Shipping company communicates to whom?
Things a shipping company communicates.
Through which medium do they communicate?
Role of PR at times of Disaster and Crisis.
What is to be kept in mind Role of PR
Today in the in the fast moving and changing world every body needs to be well informed. Today, in the business world, corporates are spending millions on advertisement campaigns and on spreading awareness about their activities, projects, products etc to their customers, share holders, financial institutions, media, etc. To manage these activities companies maintain or hire dedicated professionals in a separate cell called PUBLIC RELATIONS (P.R).
P.R. in laymen’s language “Is an link between the out-side party and the company as a whole.” The main objective of the any P.R. department is to communicate ‘effectively’ to the ‘target audiences’ because it helps the company both internally and externally in order to build clean image in media, business world, investors etc. this also results in tangible benefit over a time period.
To study and understand the role of PR in reality our group went to the leading private-sector shipping company – GREAT EASTERN SHIPPING LIMITED.
The Great Eastern Shipping Company Ltd. (G E Shipping) is India’s largest private sector shipping company. It was started with the efforts of two families - the Sheths and the Bhiwandiwallas, who started their own shipping line to help expand the reach of their trading businesses. In 1948, after obtaining the mothballed Liberty ship, SS Fort Elice, G E Shipping began its maiden voyage under the entrepreneurial genius of Vasant J. Sheth and steered ahead confidently, testing new waters and exploring new avenues. From providing sea-logistics support in its initial years to venturing in tramp shipping, to diversifying into offshore oil field services, much against the industry norms, the company has often swum against the tide and in the process, turned the tides in its favour, thereby laying a path for others to follow.
Today the company’s 40 ships travel the world carrying crude oil, petroleum products, gas and dry bulk commodities.
‘PROBABLY THE ONLY SHIPPING COMPANY WHICH HAS NOT SUFFERED CASH LOSS AT THE YEAR END EVER SINCE IT BEGAN’
P.R. System of the company
Every company has different field in which they do their business. So, the requirements and the environments are totally different. For a shipping company P.R. performs differently than that of soft-drink company.
Shipping company communicates to:
Equity Analysts and fund managers.
Lenders and creditors.
Media: Print and Digital.
Regulators; statutory bodies and trade associations.
Business associate groups.
For a shipping company communicating through correct medium for correct message is required. Practically a shipping company gains nothing from advertisements in a news papers or television because a normal person is least concern about the shipping advertisements. Cargo shipping is essentially a B2B business.
Things a shipping company communicates:
1.Finance and investor related:
Future plans and objectives.
Changes in capital structure
2.Business and Market related:
3.Disaster and crisis.
Great Eastern Shipping Company communicates the particulars through:-
Their main emphasis is on the press releases because the news reaches the correct person and in a cost effective way. This also gives company a platform to prove it transparency. If the company has good image with press it is useful at the time of crisis.
2.Balance sheets and annual reports:
Another strong communicator for the company is the yearly balance sheet. It is the tool which communicates to all the investors, stake holders, financial institutions, government, FII’s, media and employees.
Company has tie-ups with some foreign companies for special purpose like disaster management. (This part is discussed later).
Company is particular in who is to communicate externally. They firmly believe that
“Clearly laid out communication hierarchy enables efficient information flow and aids market responsiveness.”
External information sharing should be done through one point i.e. ‘Spokesperson’; this is for accountability and consistency of information. This should have the approval of the top management of the company.
If there is a specific case the functional heads are brought into the picture.
Managing directors are brought in to the picture when required or on need basis to match protocol.
At the time of disaster, a trained person ‘on-board’ and a hired disaster management company or the office of the company communicates with the media.
Role of PR at times of Disaster and Crisis
Emergency management (or disaster management) is the discipline dealing with and avoiding risks. It is a discipline that involves preparing, supporting, and rebuilding society when natural or man-made disasters occur. Emergency management is the continuous process by which all individuals, groups, and communities manage hazards in an effort to avoid or ameliorate the impact of disasters resulting from the hazards. Activities at each level (individual, group, community) affect the other levels.
Occurrence of any mishap would tend to attract media attention
For Media ’Good News’ is no News while Bad News is ‘GREAT NEWS’. Any “loose talk” unknowingly could jeopardize company’s position attracting litigation and statutory action.
Shipping attracts media attention because
Lack of transparency in ownership
GE shipping handles media with
Role of Corporate communications
Aids structured approach to target audience
Monitors information dissemination through communication hierarchy
Enforces accountability and consistency
Uses media as an effective strategy tool
‘First Perceptions are the strongest as “Battle with Media is usually won or lost in the first hours’
Task for PR during Disaster and Crisis
Who communicates at the time of disaster?
1.Person at the site ‘On-Board’.
Person at the site communicates first to the company and explains what went wrong and what can be the solution.
The person on the site also communicates with media. For this company have trained personal to handle media. They have divided the team into two groups i.e. one team of engineering department and the other team is of navigation.
2.The hired ‘disaster management company’.
Company has hired special companies which specialize in handling disasters for shipping companies. They hire these companies because they have experience and expertise in handling crisis situations on a ship.
3.The company’s P.R. department.
What is to be kept in mind
Protecting reputation of your Company as crisis is the severest test of your company’s reputation.
Media wants information immediately through any means, electronic or print because they want to break the news and they want to be the first one to show it to gain maximum TRPs because it is their job.
Emphasis on what is at stake and whom to blame.
Any communication made is on the basis of the information got from the site or the special company haired by G.E. Shipping.
Interview of Mr.Rajat Dutta. (PR head of GE shipping).
Slides and study material given by Mr.Rajat Dutta. www.greatship.com www.geshipping.org www.wikipedia.com
E-Book on disaster management :: Haddow, George D.; Jane A. Bullock (2004). Introduction to Emergency Management. www.cargolaw.com
(for information about cargo loss and pictures)