Sunday, March 22, 2009

Corporate Responsibility Advice to Royal Caribbean and Cruise Critic

From a corporate responsibility perspective, here's my advice to Royal Caribbean and Cruise Critic regarding the Royal Champions episode: Come clean.
I have read the statements from the cruise line and Cruise Critic, and read the interview with Royal Caribbean's Bill Hayden.
In short, Royal Caribbean is accused of contacting active, online-cruise reviewers, getting their contact information from Cruise Critic, and then wooing them and seeking to manipulate their writing in ways subtle and not-so-subtle.
What is blatantly missing in all of this in the aftermath of the disclosures is any admission of wrongdoing on anyone's part, other than Cruise Critic saying that "at this time, we have decided that it is not in Cruise Critic’s best interest going forward to contact members on behalf of Royal Caribbean or any other cruise line."
From my days in dealing in crisis communications as an editor-in-chief of a corporate responsibility magazine, I can tell you that the best approach in these types of situations is to let it all hang out, admit where you screwed up and let us know how you plan to reform your ways in the future.
Has Cruise Critic done such favors for advertisers and major travel companies in the past? Was it pressured to do so by anyone? Was there any internal debate about it? Were any privacy policies violated?
And, will Royal Caribbean end any involvement with the Royal Champions? Does it admit that it was wrong to try to manipulate the social-media airwaves in such a manner?
I say to both companies: We'd respect you a lot more if you if you conduct some internal reviews of your behaviors, publish the results openly, and let us know what steps you are taking to ensure that this kind of thing won't happen again.


Anonymous said...

Well, at this point we know that RCI says it has no intention of abandoning the program, and cruise critic has been busy deleting any thread with a mention of the Royal Champions, and banning any poster who brings it up. After a night of furious banning on March 9th, it did allow a discussion as a "sticky" which a few days later became a regular thread before it was locked --not deleted the last time I checked --but now it is one huge police state/site. Evidently those who have been banned for life -- found poster on -- were told that any mention of the word Royal Champion is off bounds.

RCI said it left it up to cruise critic to demand transparency (which it has steadfastly refused to do), but the FTC guidelines would indicate that it was something RCI should have required of its Champions. It really is past time for the FTC to step in and enforce its rules.

Dennis Schaal said...

Which FTC guidelines are you referring to? Can you be more specific?