2013 Digital PR Awards: Crisis Management

Winner: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. - Fire onboard Grandeur of the Seas

On Monday, May 27, 2013, at approximately 2:50 a.m. EST, Royal Caribbean International’s Grandeur of the Seas experienced a fire on deck 3, which burned for more than two hours. In an abundance of caution, the captain deemed it necessary to muster all guests at their assembly stations.

Once the fire was extinguished, the ship was diverted to Freeport, Bahamas, for further evaluation. Once in Freeport, guests were informed that the rest of their sailing would be canceled. The following day, the majority of guests were transported home on charter flights.

With objectives that included providing a steady stream of accurate information, leveraging social media to communicate, owning the conversation and limiting negative media coverage, Royal Caribbean got proactive.

Its actions included initiating the conversation on Twitter, and using it to provide all stakeholders with a regular stream of information; sending Royal Caribbean International’s president and CEO Adam Goldstein to Freeport to meet with guests on the ship; and posting photos of the damaged ship on Twitter and Facebook, allowing the company to take control of what visuals were public.

The images that Royal Caribbean shared via social and traditional channels became the most memorable images of the incident. A number of high-profile media outlets, including wire services like the Associated Press and Reuters, shared the photos and gave credit for the crisis response.

Much of the media coverage applauded Royal Caribbean’s decision to put the CEO front and center. Outlets such as the Huffington Post, NBC News, Travel Agent Central and ABC News included a photo from the visit or made mention of his efforts. The Associated Press used one of Royal Caribbean’s photos and included a third-party quote praising the company.

Shareholders and Wall Street analysts maintained overall confidence in the company after the fire in part because of the aggressive and transparent information campaign.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Airlines for America - Don’t Ground America
  • Edelman - Huggies Turns the Conversation Around: From “Boycott Huggies” to “Huggies Hears Us” in 24 hours
  • Edison Electric Institute - Electric Power Industry Response to Superstorm Sandy
  • Havas PR - Making a Difference for a Newtown Family
  • Pepco Holdings - Using Digital Communications to Help Turn Around the “Most Hated Company in America”