The cruise line floats, while PR scuttles its own ship.
by Katie Delahaye Paine
There’s been a huge amount of controversy over Royal Caribbean International's decision to continue to carry passengers to their private resort port at Labadee, Haiti. (See, for instance, this article, "Vacationing in Hell: Cruise Ships Land in Haiti.") Mostly from so called “PR experts” who have predicted long term damage from the move. To my mind, it is those PR experts whose reputation can’t be saved, and Royal Caribbean’s that will survive.
First the facts:
- Royal Caribbean’s senior management checked in with the Haitian government, which asked them to continue the cruises. The Haitian government made the very good point that if people wanted to come and spend money in the port (which sustained no damage from the quake) it was only going to help the economy.
- In addition to the thousands of passengers that each Royal Caribbean ship brings to the port, each also carries 150 pallets of relief items ranging from food to diapers to medical supplies.
- Royal Caribbean is one of the largest investors and employers in Haiti. To stop their cruises during Haiti's crisis could send the wrong signal about their commitment to the country.
What is most interesting is that in response to an Ad Age article full of critiques from half a dozen communications “experts,” there were 37 comments, almost all of which were critical of the experts.
I first heard the story in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition, and my impression was that CEO Adam Goldstein handled the situation as well as, if not better than, any CEO I’ve ever heard interviewed. I got the message, understood their position, and was left feeling much better about Royal Caribbean.
I have to wonder how many of those PR experts actually heard the whole story, and how many were just responding to Ad Age reporter Michael Bush’s request for comments for the article. Either way, I think the PR industry has a far more damaged reputation than the folks at Royal Caribbean.