Client: Irish Tourist Board (New York, NY)
PR Team: Lou Hammond & Associates (New York)
Campaign: "Ireland is Open for Business"
Time Frame: March-May 2001
For all the financial strength that has earned Ireland's economy the
moniker "Celtic Tiger," the burning pyres of cattle across the sea in
Great Britain have created a palpable threat to the Emerald Isle's
usually brisk summer tourist trade. In an effort to reassure tourists
that Ireland was free of the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease, the Irish
Tourist Board this spring tasked New York's Lou Hammond & Associates
with an eight-week crisis campaign to communicate to hesitant American
travelers that Ireland is in fact "open for business."
"They basically saw a drop in bookings of about 20% since the media
broke the story," says Lou Hammond account supervisor Lisa Schejola.
"Since the summer season is their best season, they felt they would have
to intervene strongly in the spring."
Schejola's immediate strategy was to reach out to radio and "short-lead"
publications that would quickly turn out stories. Working with two
assistants, she decided the goal of the campaign was to use a planned
April announcement that Ireland was free of foot-and-mouth disease to
maximize attention both to Ireland's status and to reaffirm its position
as a hot European tourist destination. "In April, James McDaid,
Ireland's Minister of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, was able to
announce the all clear," says Schejola.
"We were happy to find that journalists were not misled by announcements
about the foot-and-mouth problem."
Schejola contacted travel and mainstream journalists in early April,
asking if they were interested in going to Ireland. Reporters from
Travel Agent magazine, Travel Today, The Washington Times, and New York
magazine said yes to Schejola. "The trip was more to come see what
Dublin is all about - Dublin itself is a destination, and has become
probably one of the most happening cities in Europe," she says.
Back in New York, Lou Hammond & Associates was focused on getting the
rest of the travel media on board while preparing for the Irish Tourism
minister's one-week US visit, including a media tour of Los Angeles,
Chicago, Boston, and New York.
"Throughout the two months before the minister's arrival, we set up the
tour and luncheons and the interviews" says Schejola. "The pitch was
that the minister had a great announcement on how Ireland was operating
without foot-and-mouth disease, and that he could very well explain how
the country was doing it, and he was able to announce that Ireland had
the all clear."
Aiming for "top" writers from the travel trades, consumer magazines, and
daily newspapers, Schejola says she pitched to 300 media outlets,
including 100 in Los Angeles and 150 in New York. In the weeks before
the minister's tour, Schejola sent faxed invitations to the luncheons,
and followed up with phone calls.
With the two luncheons on the coasts as bookends to his whirlwind tour,
McDaid was interviewed by CNN, did radio interviews in Chicago, and had
a small luncheon in Boston at the Ritz Carlton. Lou Hammond & Associates
set up interviews with WGN in Chicago, The Joan Hamburg Show on WOR in
New York, Fox News Live, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York
Additionally, McDaid was sent to meet in private with the editors of
Travel + Leisure, Town & Country, and Conde Nast Traveler.
The media luncheons in Los Angeles and New York attracted more than 100
journalists, claims Schejola.
Orla Carey, director of communications for the Irish Tourist Board in
New York, claims that a prior drop-off in tourism leveled out shortly
after completion of the crisis campaign. There were immediate reports in
the Irish Times and in the Los Angeles Times covering the minister's
tour, adds Schejola.
The biggest coup was a four-minute live news story and interview of
McDaid on CNN, and a similar item on Fox News Live. In Los Angeles, the
story was carried by KTLA-TV and KABC-TV. In New York, WOR radio and New
York magazine covered the campaign.
"The minister got great publicity. We managed to get him on the quality
programming that we needed to have him on," says Carey.
Carey says that, due to budget constraints associated with the pending
creation of Tourism Ireland, which is to be formed by the merger of the
Irish and Northern Ireland tourist boards, there are no immediate plans
for future work with Lou Hammond & Associates.