Influencer complaints spur Celebrity Cruises to compensate blog contest winners

The cruise line's contest initially only awarded entrants with exposure.

MIAMI: Celebrity Cruises launched a "Caribbean Blogger Contest" on Wednesday offering entrants free publicity as a prize. However, after influencers called out the cruise line, it updated the contest’s terms and conditions to give five winners $1,000 each.

The copy of the original contest criteria, which Celebrity Cruises posted on its website on Wednesday, targeted influencers, stating that they must write a blog post describing their ideal Caribbean cruise itinerary by June 30.

The prize was initially a dedicated post on the brand’s social media channels, including a link to the winner’s blog, as well as a featured article on Celebrity Cruises’ blog that would include a short bio and link to the winner’s website.

"With an average of over 88,000 website visitors per day, a featured blog post on our website is an excellent opportunity for any blogger to grow his/her following!," the original entry post read. "Plus, a dedicated post on our social pages will allow you to take advantage of our community (+1.2 million on Facebook, +174k on Instagram, and +89k on Twitter) and expand your social media audience!"

However, bloggers on Facebook and Twitter were not impressed with the contest's award, with influencers saying the company should be "ashamed" for not paying writers for their work. The negative comments temporarily disappeared on Thursday afternoon.

Nathalie Alberto, PR manager for Celebrity Cruises, said the negative comments had not been deleted and "were probably hidden," adding that she plans to find out more from the company’s social media team. On Thursday evening, the comments reappeared and the cruise line responded to each one, thanking users for their feedback and explaining that the guidelines had been changed to offer compensation to writers.

Alberto explained that Celebrity Cruises should have worded the criteria more clearly to emphasize that the contest is open to anyone, not just influencers.

"We take feedback seriously, so we updated the copy on the site [on Thursday night]," she said, in response to the negative comments. "We are adding compensation for five final winners, so we are addressing the community’s feedback and also doing the right thing."

The updated entry page no longer calls the contest a "Caribbean Blogger Contest;" instead, the top of the page says, "Share your Caribbean story." The text intended for influencers has also been removed, and criteria states that five people can win spots as featured guest writers for the Celebrity Cruise blog and receive $1,000 apiece.

"All aspiring and established writers are welcome," the updated entry page states. "Maintaining your own blog is not a requirement for entrance into the contest."

Celebrity Cruises often notices user-generated content about its brand from people who have sailed with the cruise line or hope to take a trip with it, Alberto said.

"We wanted to give anyone who has a heart for writing and cruising the Caribbean an opportunity to continue the dialogue with us," she added. The contest is being run by Celebrity’s in-house communications team without the help of an agency.

Celebrity Cruises "is not shy" about working with influencers for events such as press sailings and launches and regularly compensates them with sailing opportunities and other offerings, said Alberto.

"We greatly value our relationships with influencers and the importance of having those," she said. 

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