The rescue of stranded British holidaymakers by new cruise ship Celebrity Eclipse during last year’s Icelandic ash cloud crisis has been recognised as one of the UK’s biggest publicity coups.
Travel and leisure PR agency Siren picked up two prestigious CIPR Excellence Awards – in the Broadcast and Media Relations categories – for its work managing communications of the repatriation mission, which saw more than 2,500 people returned to the country when European airspace was closed by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April 2010.
The annual CIPR Excellence Awards, held in London last night (June 1) are recognised as the communication industry’s ‘Oscars’ and pay tribute to the best PR practice.
Siren – the retained PR agency of RCL Cruises Ltd – was behind the decision to replace the planned launch celebrations of Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse in Southampton in favour of a rescue sailing to Bilbao.
Despite the significant logistical challenges, Siren managed to achieve unprecedented media coverage, including 198 separate TV reports.
Siren chief executive and founder Rachel O’Connor said: “The decision to turn the launch celebration into a damage limitation success was a brave move – especially since we’d been planning it for six months!
“These two CIPR Excellence awards recognise the incredible effort put in by our entire team, and also demonstrate how important it is to have a close working relationship with clients. The bosses at Celebrity Cruises showed the utmost faith in us by taking our counsel at a time when the whole travel industry was in crisis.”
Siren client, associate vice president and general manager for Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, Jo Rzymowska commented:
“Siren managed to turn around what could have been a difficult event into a major news agenda success and great platform for the Celebrity Cruises brand. Simply brilliant.”
In the Media Relations category, the most hotly contested of the entire awards, CIPR judges said: “Siren took advantage of being in the right place at the right time when Iceland’s Eyjatjallajokull volcano erupted. Instead of just going for a low key launch or even cancellation, a proactive decision was taken to launch a repatriation cruise. Brave approach, took risks with media but protected the brand throughout!”
In the Broadcast category, CIPR judges remarked: “Siren achieved phenomenal broadcast coverage under the most challenging circumstances. When the Icelandic ash cloud disrupted most international travel, the prevailing bad news story was turned to their clients’ advantage by a fast thinking inspired strategy.
“Plans to celebrate the launch of a new cruise ship turned into a rescue mission for the 2,500 stranded tourists. The Siren team were deployed on-board the ship with a coordinating team back at base. Despite limited communications from and to the ship they maximised broadcast opportunities available achieving international, national, regional and local coverage, significantly enhancing their client’s reputation.”