CAMPAIGNS: Tourism PR - Irish Tourist Board springs into action

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

Budget: $50,000

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.

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