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Quickly Noted: PR Disasters of the Week

January 18, 2010

And it’s only Monday.

This post is a little off the beaten track, but these two news items were at the top of my Reader this morning, and I was so amazed that I just had to post on them.

Number one on the hit list has to do with the earthquake. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Inc. is getting in hot water today for the decision to allow one of its ships, Independence of the Seas, to dock at a private beach in Haiti this weekend. While there, passengers who disembarked enjoyed cocktails and barbecque on the picturesque beach. Just miles away, thousands lay dead and dying. On the positive side, the ship delivered 40 pallets of emergency supplies, but the contrast between the utter destruction in Port au Prince and the carefree lifestyle touted by tour operators is quite stark and should get some news cycles.

The second thing that caught my attention was a post by noted career/life blogger Penelope Trunk. Ms. Trunk writes a blog to support the career-oriented social networking site, Brazen Careerist. Her career advice is unusual and is directed at younger folks just getting started in the career marketplace. My wife and I find her blog interesting because she writes a good deal about her personal life (and sex life). This combination has attracted a sizable audience, and one that is extremely integrated into other forms of social media and viral marketing. So when she writes about how McDonald’s sponsored a racist, misogynistic rodeo show in her hometown — and publishes it on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, no less — it’s going to get some play. Here are some of the key quotes:

Then, out of nowhere, the clown brought out a wig, that had dreadlocks, and he put on a Rastafarian hat, and he started pretending that he was Barack Obama. He said, “I feel so presidential.” And he made jokes about whether Obama is a US citizen.

and

Until the women came out. They were acrobats on fast running horses. Sort of like the clowns, only dressed like Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. The most special time, I think, was when two girls did tricks on one horse. The girls did not share a horse because the tricks are more difficult that way, it was more like the girls shared a horse to make you think they’d be available for a threesome after the show.

And she leaves this note at the bottom:

Finally, since it’s Martin Luther King Day, and since Psychology Today just published a study that says people feel better if they do an act of activism, I have a proposal:

We should each twitter today:

@McDonalds Racism is not okay and neither is hate. Please stop your support of the All-Star Rodeo. http://bit.ly/4AiXT1

That’ll get some notice.

It will be interesting to see which one gains more traction in the press (Haitian earthquake disaster, or social media campaign), and which company responds more effectively.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2010 8:39 pm

    So, if the beach were in the Dominican Republic, would that make it somehow different? How about Cuba? There are parts of Cuba closer to Haiti than parts of the Dominican Republic, but at least it’s a different island. Maybe the 18-minute water gap is important. Would that be different? Oh, and one of the closest parts of Cuba is Guantanamo Bay. Would it be different if they had cocktails there? Or how about Puerto Rico, just one island over? Would it be different there? Or do these folks yammering have anything useful to say, or are they just used to saying whatever pops into their Internet-addled minds?

    • January 18, 2010 10:06 pm

      Those are all very interesting questions, Joel, no doubt. And I’m not particularly saying that what the cruise line did was wrong. Should everyone in the area of a disaster stop having fun in order to honor the dead? Frankly, if I paid two grand for that cruise, I’d still be eating barbecque.

      I noted it here merely for the process. Which will get more traction? Which company would respond better?

      Looking at the days news (through news.google.com and search.twitter.com) it looks like the “royal caribbean haiti” search yields more stories, and from much more respectable sources, than “mcdonalds rodeo” does. Does that mean that Royal Caribbean is wrong? Dunno, but the process is interesting and something we as communications specialists can learn from.

      To date it looks like Royal Caribbean has had the jetty viewed by the US Navy, who found it unsuitable for supply offloading, and are including food, medical supplies and other sundry in their stops in Haiti, while proceeds from guests while on the island are being given to the recovery effort (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/19/cruise-ship-haiti-earthquake).

      Thanks for stopping by and taking an interest!

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