For shipping companies, reputations directly affect their ability to attract and retain the best employees, win business with blue chip charterers, attract finance and even keep their employees out of prison by reducing interference from over-zealous prosecutors.

Since reputation is about the human factor, how do you prevent losses? Perhaps obviously, you start by employing good people. But people make mistakes, misspeak, or fail to understand how their actions (or inactions) might be perceived by others – every news outlet has stories of such failings every day.

Steps to managing the human factor:

  1. Provide communications awareness training to your staff (sea and shore) – this is more than just media training. Everyone is the face of your company, so make sure that they understand their responsibilities and how to communicate effectively.
  2. Evaluate any events at your company which attract increased attention for potential misunderstandings or perception issues – the optics.
  3. Add human factors to your checklists. Not just, “is the vessel safe?”, but also, who could “feel” impacted by the situation? And how can they be reassured?
  4. Find a trusted and objective external party (communications expert) who will help you to understand how your actions or inactions will be perceived by third parties.
  5. Commit resources as part of any incident response team to dealing with people, especially journalists, politicians, family members and activists.
  6. Following any incident which attracted attention, analyse your reputation for any damage and develop a plan to repair it – if you’re working with a media consultant, this should be provided as standard.

The above is past of a joint initiative of Navigate Response and North P&I Club aimed at raising awareness around the importance of proactive media planning.