CIPR Excellence Awards: The winners

Rescue: Celebrity eclipse
Rescue: Celebrity eclipse

Media realations and braodcast winner

Fair wind amid the ash for cruise ship

Campaign: Launching Celebrity Eclipse with a repatriation mission
Client: Royal Caribbean Cruises
PR teams: Siren
Timescale: April 2010
Budget: £10,000

Siren was preparing to launch Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Eclipse on 20 April at Southampton. But days before launch, Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, throwing the travel industry into chaos, along with the agency's carefully planned PR activity. Parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCC) could not be seen to 'party' while the industry was in crisis and British holidaymakers were stranded overseas. Siren advised RCC to cancel the launch plans in favour of a repatriation mission to rescue tourists stranded in Europe.

Objectives

- To raise awareness of Celebrity Eclipse

- To generate coverage of RCC's rescue.

Strategy and plan

The PR team tipped off the Press Association about the mission the night before the new ship arrived at Southampton to ensure inclusion in the early news agenda. The four-day rescue mission was presented as the ship's maiden voyage, replacing a VIP cruise.

The PR team invited a restricted number of UK media on board and employed an on-board film crew and photographer to distribute press materials to broadcast, online and print media.

Footage of the ship's arrival in Southampton was distributed to TV stations, timed to hit the major news bulletins. The company's president was made available for interviews. Logistical information was provided to media to enable them to send satellite trucks to greet the ship in Spain.

The PR team ran a 24-hour media hotline and provided cruise-specialist online media with a release to make details easily available via internet searches.

The reactions of the 2,200 passengers 'rescued' by Celebrity Eclipse were filmed and a B-roll, a digital rough-cut and two-minute news piece were edited and distributed using the ship's wifi to secure TV and online coverage on 22 April.

Commissioned film crews covered the ship's return to the UK on 23 April. News crews were met at Southampton by the PR team and spokespeople for interviews.

Measurement and evaluation

Coverage was achieved on all national UK TV networks, alongside more than 640 broadcast, online and print pieces. The repatriation mission was dubbed a 'publicity coup' by BBC News. The team secured 198 broadcast pieces including on Channel 4 News, CNN and Sky News. A further 220 online pieces were generated, including on BBC Online, Mail Online and Times Online, and radio coverage on various BBC stations, Heart FM and LBC.

Results

Because it helped turn a negative travel industry story into a positive, RCC built strong links with tour operators, travel media and enhanced its trade reputation. There was a 159 per cent increase in traffic to the Celebrity Cruises website in April 2010 compared with April 2009; 42 per cent of that traffic was between 20 and 27 April, during the repatriation. The repatriation introduced those rescued to RCC as a potential future holiday choice.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

Media Relations Category

'Siren took advantage of being in the right place at the right time when Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted. Instead of just going for a low-key launch or even cancellation, a proactive decision was taken to launch a repatriation cruise. Their approach was a brave one that took risks with the media but protected the brand throughout.'

Broadcast Category

'The judges felt that Siren achieved phenomenal broadcast coverage under the most challenging circumstances. When the Icelandic ash cloud disrupted most international travel, the prevailing bad news story was turned to their client's advantage by a fast-thinking, inspired strategy. Plans to celebrate the launch of a new cruise ship turned into a rescue mission for the 2,200 stranded tourists. The Siren team were deployed on board the ship with a co-ordinating team back at base.

'Despite limited comms from and to the ship, they maximised broadcast opportunities available achieving international, national, regional and local coverage, significantly enhancing their client's reputation.'

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