Maritime CEO

Maritime CEO 300: Shipping’s public image

Singapore: Maritime CEO has notched up 300 interviews. To celebrate this milestone all week we are tapping into the Maritime CEO archives to pick out specific themes of interest. Today, we look at shipping’s public image.
Many readers will have flicked on a rolling news channel at the time of a shipping accident to see the inevitable picture of a containership and the news anchor regaling viewers with talk of a tanker spilling its guts.
How shipping works – and its importance to everyday life – is little known among the general public. This lack of understanding ultimately brings fierce trouble to shipping whenever an accident occurs and politicians are forced to react to public outcry.
Shipping does need to better engage the media, argued the head of UK public relations firm Polaris Media at the start of the year. Ben Pennington told this site, “There are so many maritime businesses out there that are clueless how to promote themselves in the media.”
Pennington described maritime as an “old school” sector, which leads to a reluctance to embrace the media and marketing as its benefits are not fully grasped.
The shipping industry should stop complaining that it is not understood or does not get the coverage it deserves in the mainstream media, suggested the head of another maritime public relations firm in february.
“There is plenty of evidence that beyond a few well-intentioned groups,” said Neville Smith, head of Mariner Communications, “the majority of the industry has little desire for a higher profile. There are a number of reasons for that of course but it seems sometimes to be asking for a pat on the back just for doing a good job. As always, we have to ask, is that really a news story?”
Another PR specialist, Russ Green, who founded RTG Communications (RTGC) 12 years ago and counts many aviation and logistics companies as clients, noted how maritime firms are generally behind other modes of transport in terms of looking after their public image.
“I think the main difference,” he said, “is the dynamism of the logistics and airfreight sectors. Many of our clients in these sectors are working with global brand name customers and they have developed sophisticated marketing programmes of which PR is an important part. There is a greater understanding of the value of PR and what it can deliver.
“I think that if shipping lines can look beyond the traditional channels of promotion and work with professional specialist PR companies they can significantly elevate their profile within the industry.”
Ed Ion, managing partner of Singapore-based Helix Media, took issue with the argument that shipping is by nature a secretive industry when interviewed by Maritime CEO last month.
“Shipping gets less insular each day,” he reckoned, saying that the best performers in the sector understand the need to communicate clearly and consistently with a wide range of outside interests.
“Shipping does not need to have a dialogue with the man in the street,” Ion said, “but it does need to convey clear messages to the markets, shareholders, authorities, regulators, customers, charterers, cargo owners and so on.”
Tomorrow in the Maritime CEO 300 series we turn our attention to shipmanagement. [08/04/14]

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