Handling the PR for Aruba

In a recent article in O'Dwyer PR Website, it's noted that the NY-based PR firm Quinn & Company - who has handled the Aruba tourism account for the past few years - is also working with the island on the missing Alabama teen, Natalee Holloway.

New York firm Quinn & Co. has dispatched PR staffers to the Caribbean Island of Aruba, where the disappearance of an 18-year-old Alabama student has captivated media.

Q&C won a three-year pact in 2003 to handle PR for the Dutch island, which uses the tagline "where happiness lives."

Natalee Holloway, a native of Mountain Brook, Ala., disappeared while on a five-day graduation trip with her high school class. Island authorities arrested three men today who said they gave Holloway a ride the night she disappeared.

The Aruban government has offered a $20K reward for information about the disappearance and her family has offered up another $30K. A bar Holloway visited that night has also posted a $5K reward.

Carla Caccavale, partner for Q&C, heads the Aruba account and has traveled to the Caribbean with other staff to handle PR for the crisis. She has not yet been reached by O'Dwyer's.

Seventy-five percent of tourists that travel to the tropical island – which is about the size of Washington, D.C. and known for its white sand beaches – are from the U.S.
Quinn did have an official statement on the disappearance of Holloway (as of June 9):
In response to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, the Government of Aruba and the Aruba Tourism Authority pledge their full support and cooperation to Ms. Holloway's family.

A thorough investigation is has been underway for over a week now with the support of both local and international authorities. Hundreds of concerned Aruban citizens have also joined the national search efforts along with Americans residing on island and tourists. The massive island-wide search is taking place on land and sea. Aruba Search and Rescue Teams, Dutch Marines, and Coast Guard, who have provided helicopters to assist in the search from the air, are aiding efforts.

Everyday approximately 50 to 250 search volunteers including locals, Americans living in Aruba, along with visitors, comb different areas of the island. This comes as a shock to Aruba where crime against tourist is almost non-existent. Aruba is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean and a favorite amongst travelers with a repeat visitor rate of 40%, the highest of any Caribbean destination.

The island extends its sincerest thoughts and prayers to Ms. Holloway's family and friends for a positive outcome.
In the past, there has been much written about using blogs for crisis communications; the disappearance of would have been a good example of how Aruba could have used a blog to keep press, and public, up to date on everything that the island nation had been doing.

I sent Quinn a few questions via email, and follows are the questions and answers...
Thus far, Aruba has only put up $20,000 of the $50,000 reward, with the bulk put up by the family. Does the island plan on putting in more? How is Quinn & Company combating what may be viewed as the island being cheap?

Following is the breakdown for the reward: $10,000 from the government of Aruba, $10,000 from the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association, $10,000 from the family and $20,000 from anonymous investors in Birmingham, Alabama.

Are there any estimates on how much in US tourism dollars Aruba might lose from this disappearance?

We do not have that information.

In the age of open communications and up-to-date news, did Quinn and Company or Aruba think of setting up a crisis communications blog to be constantly updated with news of what the island is doing, and news updates?

Aruba has a message board on the Aruba.com Web site and Quinn & Co. has made sure that all of Aruba's travel partners are kept up to date at all times as more information becomes available.

What are the post-crisis plans, to try to alleviate any fears and convince people to vacation on the island?

Currently we are completely focused on supporting the Holloway family and bringing the situation to closure.
A few thougths about this: with a country that relies heavily on tourism, to only pony up $20,000 while the family and friends in Alabama brought in $30,000 seems like an inbalance. The island relies on American and international tourism, and should have brought more to the table than just $20,000 - it's almost insulting. The PR firm should have pushed the client to put in more than the family and friends. A lot more.

In regards to a message board on Aruba.com reaching out to the island's travel partners, those are not the people that need to be reached with up-to-date information, but rather people that were thinking of traveling to Aruba and now have concerns. Update: Q&C did call me to let me know that they are also responding to all consumer questions and concerns personally - each email is personally addressed, not automated.

A blog - separate from the Aruba Website - could have been an interactive press room, where members of the press could get the latest updates via RSS feeds and the public could have come to find information and post questions and comments. While not every company needs to blog, blogs are tools that should be used in crisis situations.

In this instance, you want the island government ot be proactive, out in front of all the others, and in full control of the investigation - a blog could have helped with that.

In situations like these, no amount of crisis planning is going to help, but having certain communications tools in place can at least get information out to the public.


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8 comments

  1. Over the weekend, at Reboot 7.0, I heard Dina Mehty tell the story of the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog (http://tsunamihelp.blogspot.com/).

    Using Skype, Blogger, IRC, IM, and wikis (ALL free, note), the team -- which was organized on the fly -- was posting valuable info within hours, and had attracted over a million hit in the first week.

    So the tools are out there for rapid-response blogging during crises. Really no excuse, any more.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous6:59 PM

    I would say the barn door was closed after the horse escaped!

    To hire a PR Co. post disaster is a little late!
    ...My family has been to Aruba...many times!
    But we WILL NOT go back until this Poor family has peace!

    Tell the Van Dersloots' they are going to ruin Aruba and its economy....MANY US citizens are VEREY upset over the Aruban Authorites' handling of this issue!

    I say no U.S. Citizens should spend a PENNY even thinking about a trip there until Natalie is found!

    ReplyDelete
  3. DIRTY HANDZ2:41 PM

    ARUBA, THE PSYCHOPATH'S ONE BIG HAPPY ISLAND!
    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    ,,,,

    Aruba, has helped kill Natalee Holloway too!

    Why? How so, you ask????

    ....................................

    They are enablers...

    They enable people like names on the following list.

    They don't speak out against the corruption that evelops the island like odoriferous cloud of rotten tuna!

    They do not even raise an eyebrow to date rape, murder, or
    coverup anymore!!!

    They've become numb to it, corruption is the rule in Aruba!

    No longer the exception.

    The Arubian Soul, has turned dark like charcoal!
    .................................

    Paulus Van der sloot

    Joran Van der sloot

    Deepak Kalpoe

    Satish Kalpoe

    Van der Straaten

    Gerold Dompig

    Dennis Jacobs

    Michael Dompig

    Geoffrey Van Cromvoirt

    Steve Croes

    ........................

    How can I HELP put a stop to this?

    Do these 3 things:

    1. Do not travel to Aruba or buy any Aruban goods - PERIOD. No exceptions. Tell friends, family, and the public of these things.
    2. Write anyone that can be of help. Congress, Senate, Mayors, Governors, Prime Ministers, Cruise Lines, Airlines, Travel
    Agents. Other countries. ANYBODY THAT NEEDS TO HEAR ABOUT THE CRAZINESS OF ARUBA!
    3. Repeat steps 1 and 2. Say these things loud and proud & do it with panache!!! Remember, people don't always listen the first
    time AROUND. Out of three hundred letters or emails, plan on the fact that people may have only read 1 of them!!!!
    The messenger must be CONSISTENT, LOUD & CLEAR, and UNRELENTING!!!

    To hell with Aruba. Give them a taste of what they have done to Natalee & her family! Let them know, this kind of $hit is not
    acceptable, and there are ways to make them pay dearly for this!

    FVCK ARUBA, FVUCK THE EVIL DUTCH/ARUBIAN EMPIRE.

    I taste blood now, for how you have MIStreated Natalee and her family.

    IT IS FOR THIS, I WILL NOW MAKE YOU PAY & PAY DEARLY!!! I am going to help through your vital island's economy in the wood chipper.

    ...........................................................
    ............................................................
    ............................................................

    ARUBA, A KILLER & RAPIST'S PARADISE ISLAND!

    Book today (die tomorrow) act now... and get two free rapes & a complimentary casket to put your murdered loved one's remains in.

    ARUBA, THE GOD DAMNED EVIL/LYING/MUDERING ARUBIAN/DUTCH EMPIRE:

    ...and the and played on!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous8:38 PM

    Aruba's good people must not suffer. They have done nothing wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous8:46 PM

    Does Quinn & Company still represent Aruba?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous8:39 AM

    Aruba has not put that money but used MILLIONS of dollars in the search, while the Family asks for donations for the Search, NOT ONE cent has been used for this. The family got HUNDRED OF THOUSANDS of dollars of free stay, eat and BOOZE, just one bill of a Bar exceeded $ 18.000,-

    The family lied many times to the public and reporters and all are documented.

    The FBI and NFI discovered that the tape that Dr. Phil used to show that the suspects had sex with Natalee was MANUFACTURED. Not REAL, Falsified.

    The facts also shows that Natalee met with several other people during her stay and had problems with some of the male students.

    The Mountain Brooks kids were told to not cooperate with the FBI and the Aruban Police as per the Twitty Family.

    And there are may other RED flags!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous6:58 AM

    Huuummm. ... . . .I believe any accommodations provided to the family (mostly just discounts) are from American firms and have nothing to do with Aruba. No, Aruba has not spent millions searching for Natalee. The F-16's were on a routine training mission and just included Aruba in it in a lame attempt to appear to be doing something. That is no way to look for one person. I have tried to hear every interview Beth Twitty has given and not once has she lied to anybody.

    Guess you missed the memo, anonymous, that the NFI verified the hard drive of Skeeters. The only "altered" version is the one that the Aruba law enforcement had in their possession for a period of time. Odd that!

    But people are not staying away from Aruba because of anything Beth says or Skeeters but because they see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears what a crock this cover-up is and how corrupt Aruba truly is. Now the PM wants to threaten us with Chavez?? Go for it!!

    The U.S. does not owe Aruba anything. Not one $ in tourism. Understand? We are free to chose whether or not to travel to Aruba. We are chosing more by the day not to do so and now you say Chavez is your friend. Maybe he will send you tourists. I sure hope so because you have spit in our faces with the disrespectful manner in which you handled the disappearance of one of our citizens. Aruba and Chavez sitting in a tree--K-i-s-s-i-n-g!

    So continue to cover for your Sloots, keep your buddy Chavez and your online porn and all the rest of your sleaze from date rape drugs to online gambling. And we will keep our tourist dollars for a more palpable destination. Adios, Aruba!

    ReplyDelete
  8. If you have never traveled to Aruba, and don't know the REAL story (not the one manufactured by CNN and other American Media), you have NO clue, and could never have a clue of the extent of MISREPRESENTATION of Aruba during the course of this situation. But of course, there will now be a post defending the American media, which are supposedly so reliable.
    And.. if you want to boycott Aruba.. go ahead. We are tired of these dumb threats from Americans who would probably never even have traveled to Aruba in the first place. Those Americans who know Aruba and the people of Aruba, already come to the island and love it.

    ReplyDelete