FT. LAUDERDALE, FL: The fate of a PR campaign developed for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) appears up in the air after it was accidentally e-mailed to a Connecticut reporter.
The Greenwich Post recently reported receiving an e-mail from CLIA communications director Lanie Fagan that included a plan by DC-based John Adams and Associates proposing the launch of a “reputation management” program featuring travel agents and other industry “ambassadors” who would help with outreach to members of Congress and be trained to reach out to local media.
Critics of the cruise line industry claim inadequate legal and security procedures for passengers who are victims of crime onboard cruises and support legislation introduced in the US House and Senate in June that would mandate new rules about safety measures, transparency in reporting on aboard crime, training procedures, and more. The industry itself disagrees, arguing it has an extremely low rate of crime.
Fagan told PRWeek via e-mail that the communications plan contained communications strategies and tactics already used by the group for some time and that they are part of an ongoing effort to communicate “the reality that serious crime aboard cruise ships is extremely rare.”
“It is unfortunate that the journalist accidentally received the e-mail,” Fagan said. “From my vantage point, the e-mail reflects the fact that the industry has a good story to tell, and we are looking at ways of telling that story.
Fagan declined to say whether the plan would be put into action.
The plan sets a goal of conveying the cruise line industry as a leader in “environmental conservation, safety and security, health and sanitation, economic impact, and innovation within the maritime industry as a whole.” Outreach would also include identifying new allies who could defend the industry, including the US Coast Guard, the Sea Cadets youth organization, and the AARP; a national earned media program highlighting the industry's environmental leadership; and advertising in key state capitals as well as DC.
The office of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), a sponsor of the Senate legislation to tighten safety on ships, has posted the plan on his Web site.
In addition, Kendall Carver, president and co-founder of the advocacy group International Cruise Victims (ICV), an outspoken supporter of the new legislation, said the accidental release “gave me an excuse to go to some major publications.”
Carver said he received the proposal shortly after it was accidentally sent to the Post and that it has prompted a number of forthcoming articles in the media, though he declined to say which outlets.
“There are about four articles in the works right now,” he said. “I just got off the phone with a major business magazine. Will they all pick it up? I don't know, but they've expressed a lot of interest.”
The Post reported that after accidentally sending the e-mail -- actually intended for CLIA EVP of public policy and communications Eric Ruff -- Fagan called to say it was an internal memo and asked that it be “disregarded.”
John Adams, president of John Adams and Associates, said he did not know if the plan would be adopted by the CLIA. He noted, though, that this is not the first time that a PR plan has been revealed to the public and seized upon by an advocacy group as evidence of some sort of nefarious activity.
“There's no privacy anymore, there's no secrecy,” Adams said. “You have people pressing these buttons and sending it to the wrong people. So what can you do?”
Adams also questioned the right of the newspaper to publish the story.
"It's [more] a question of journalistic ethics, that the reporter chose to write about something sent by mistake," he said.