Advertiser: Discover Puerto Rico Brand: Discover Puerto Rico Agency: Ketchum Country: United States
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico just days after Hurricane Irma struck the Island. It was a pivot Our agency was brought on to guide Puerto Rico from its worst disaster to one of the fastest recoveries in tourism history, engineering a comeback story for the ages. Strategically targeting socially conscious travelers, we convinced them that one of the best ways to help Puerto Rico recover economically was to visit – to travel with purpose. "Meaningful travel" became our motivating message to rekindle tourism and wage an effective "Come Back to Comeback" campaign. We debunked myths about the Island's condition, aggressively promoted tourism, and validated the destination with third party accolades. By December 2017, Puerto Rico was open for tourism. By the six-month mark post Hurricane Maria, tourism had come roaring back. But now Puerto Rico had to prepare for another hit. We knew that news outlets and their social media feeds use calendar milestones to revisit disasters, recycle negative images and bring political issues back to the forefront. Rather than celebrate the progress of the tourism industry, one-year anniversary coverage of Hurricane Maria could hinder the tourism industry's hard-earned efforts over the past 12 months. In partnership with Discover Puerto Rico, a non-profit established by the Puerto Rican government to market Puerto Rico as a destination, we needed to create a story of progress and hope that would steer positive media coverage of Hurricane Maria one year later. It needed to show the improvements the proud island was making, and fuel tourism ahead. And, we had to succeed in the eye of Hurricane Florence barreling toward the United States. To head off the widely anticipated barrage of negative media coverage expected around the first anniversary of the hurricane, we rallied media and audiences everywhere to instead #CoverTheProgress, and spotlight the tremendous recovery of Puerto Rico and its resilient people who now welcomed visitors back.Given that Puerto Rico is a destination that attracts audiences of all different ages, genders, religions, national and ethnic groupings, our campaign aimed to influencer the influencer, to reach these audiences. We also decided early on in our communications planning to zero in a new subset of travelers we discovered through research that are motivated to travel to make and economic difference. This was uncovered via an online survey conducted by YouGov in May 2018. We uncovered that Americans are happy when their vacation dollars support the local community of a destination. In fact, 63 percent of Americans actively think about how the money they spend on vacation impacts local communities, so we took advantage of this passion point as well to ensure we were driving the right travelers to Puerto Rico. We needed a positive media centerpiece with viral potential, so recalling an image once carried around the world of Humacao's residents' haunting S.O.S. image, we shot a new aerial image of the same intersection -- this time colorfully decorated and greeting visitors with a big "Bienvenidos! (Welcome!)" We created a toolkit of visual content to inspire media to #CoverTheProgress. It included stark before and after imagery of popular Island tourism spots, stunning new video footage, the latest tourism data, compelling visitor testimonials, and images of local tourism industry members holding #CoverTheProgress signs. One month before the anniversary, we launched #CoverTheProgress with an exclusive story on CNN (the same media outlet that had first released the aerial S.O.S. image in 2017). We left no stone unturned. We went wide, pitched online and print travel, consumer lifestyle, and hard news outlets. Local businesses and travel industry partners – from entrepreneurs to hotels and airlines – joined us in sharing real-time images. We brought in travel influencers to post updates and invited all 100+ influencers and media with whom we'd worked with since the Hurricane to share their "throwback" experiences on the island and drive positive coverage. Celebrity supporters continued to spread the word that the best way to support Puerto Rico is to visit. Our outreach culminated ahead of the anniversary with a New York media tour with Discover Puerto Rico CEO, Brad Dean.