Campaigns: Maritime - Shipping industry targets the pirates

Campaign: Save Our Seafarers
Client: Save Our Seafarers (a group of shipping industry associations)
PR team: RMS
Timescale: March-May 2011
Budget: £32,500

Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean is a huge problem for the shipping industry - some 850 seafarers are currently being held captive in appalling conditions and piracy is costing the world economy $8-12bn a year. Five shipping industry associations had come together to run a campaign to give the problem a greater public and political profile around the world. Following a competitive pitch, RMS was asked to run the marcoms for the campaign. The group was led by Intertanko, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners.


- To put the eradication of Somali piracy high on the public and political agenda worldwide, particularly in the 147 countries that are reliant on maritime trade.

Strategy and plan

RMS named the campaign Save Our Seafarers. It devised, built and produced a multimedia campaign including a dedicated website,

It urged supporters in 147 countries to send an automated signed letter to their respective heads of government, as well as set up Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The agency sent press releases to global media about death tolls and the state of the maritime industry, and set up interviews with media, including a Reuters interview.

RMS also produced and ran a global ad campaign, with a separate budget, which appeared in Time magazine, the New York Times and The Times. Ads were also booked in the FT and The Wall Street Journal in the week of the campaign launch.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign generated press and TV coverage in newspapers, journals and TV stations worldwide, including Times of India, Time magazine, Handelsblatt, Newsweek magazine and The Guardian. Googling 'Save Our Seafarers' now produces more than 100,000 relevant searches. At the end of the campaign in May, there were 3,729 subscribers to the Facebook page and 643 subscribers to the Twitter feed.


Within the first few weeks, 10,000 letters had been dispatched and returned from key global political leaders.

The number of maritime organisations backing the campaign swelled from five to 22 at an international conference in Athens held earlier this summer. Organisers of the primary global shipping industry's annual conference, to be held in Malmo, Sweden, later this year, have asked to use the Save Our Seafarers campaign as a keynote theme.

In April, Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, acknowledged the campaign and Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, has written offering his support. A US senator raised the subject at length in an address to Congress.

Momentum continues to gather and there have now been more than 14,000 global government letters sent to the Save Our Seafarers website offering support.

After the initial three-month campaign, RMS has now been hired to carry out an integrated campaign for the next 12 months.


The success of this campaign was underpinned by getting the message right from the start. Having taken on a global issue, with far-reaching economic impact, the debate was rightly framed around the people at the centre of it all.

By highlighting the effect of piracy on the individuals held captive - and each and every one of us in terms of global food supply - audiences were more likely to empathise with the rallying cry to 'Save Our Seafarers'.

The use of grassroots campaign tactics and social media enabled the cost-effective creation of a global platform for securing support from political leaders, in turn encouraging more maritime organisations to back the campaign.

This was a classic example of framing a message correctly and then taking an integrated approach to disseminating it, combining traditional public affairs with PR, global advertising and SEO. When trying to draw attention to issues that, despite their human interest angle, are failing to attract human interest, this is a textbook way of doing it.

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