Tuesday, January 19, 2010

PR Memo to Royal Caribbean: It's Not About You

To help Haiti, text HAITI to 90999 and a donation of $10 will go to the Red Cross.  Nearly $20 million has been raised so far. 

The world is focused on the devastation in Haiti, and major corporations are rightly highlighting their efforts on the Web, through social networks and through advertising. It's great to see Corporate Social Responsibility as more than a tag line.

And then there's Royal Caribbean. Here's the image and copy from Royal Caribbean's Website on its Haiti relief efforts.

It's nice, but the impression it creates is fake. Thanks to maritime lawyer Jim Walker's Cruise Law News Blog, we learn a few things about this combination of words and images. The picture is former President Bill Clinton in Haiti with Royal Caribbean's two top executives, Chairman Richard Fain and President Adam Goldstein, in October 2009. Two months before the quake.

Not only is the photo misleading, it is highly unethical. With the picture and the headline, Royal Caribbean would have us believe that all Haiti lacks right now is the attention of two cruise ship executives. Wow, thank goodness these guys are on the job. This is the kind of thing that gives PR a bad name. And what is infuriating is that it is unnecessary.

According to Royal Caribbean's President and CEO's blog, he (along with others) met with President Clinton in New York on Thursday, January 14 to discuss Haitian relief. Good for them, the company is doing something positive. But one lousy photo choice makes all their words and actions seem like a PR stunt or designed to make the boss feel good. There are any number of pictures Royal Caribbean could have chosen for its Website. It chose poorly.

This is a time for understatement and subtlety.

Let me give Messrs. Fain and Goldstein the advice their PR counsel should have given them:

No one cares who you walked with down the pier.

People are dying in the streets.

Bill Salvin

Hat Tip to Jim Walker from Cruise Law News Blog for his brilliant post on this issue and for helping bring the larger issue of Royal Caribbean's record in Haiti to light. Nice job, Jim!

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