Cannes Lions



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Case Film






When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, millions watched the disaster unfold in the media. The world saw an island with no electricity, a broken infrastructure, and a mounting death toll -- destructive images that redefined the once inviting island and its people, and virtually wiped out Puerto Rico’s crucial tourism economy. One year later, the recovering island now had to brace for another PR disaster: the world’s media were preparing one-year anniversary coverage of the hurricane which would recycle the dramatic images of devastation – threatening our hard-earned efforts to win back tourists. In fact, our research of past natural disasters showed that 90% of anniversary coverage was negative.

It was time for PR intervention. How could we flip the media’s negative anniversary script and prevent another tidal wave of hurricane coverage that could impact perceptions of the island’s recovery and discourage tourism?


We needed a creative new visual centerpiece and media call to action with the power to entirely redirect how the world’s media covered Puerto Rico around the one-year milestone of the hurricane’s destruction.

Instead of a destruction story, we needed a positive recovery story – one visually strong and dramatic enough to overshadow the media’s natural inclination to simply repurpose their large library of disaster footage.

We found our creative inspiration in one of the most haunting images that had gone viral during the week of the hurricane: an urgent S.O.S. sign painted on a street intersection in storm-ravaged Humacao to alert passing aircraft to residents’ dire situation.

That gave us our idea. We would go back to that same intersection, gather the residents, and paint a very different message to the media and the world a year later. Instead of S.O.S., it would say Bienvenidos! (Welcome!) #CoverTheProgress!


In a bold move, PR would directly challenge the media to #CoverTheProgress instead of the hurricane’s destruction, and take personal responsibility for coverage of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria. Media had a choice: their coverage could either positively or negatively influence the world’s perception of the island as a travel destination, and affect the livelihood of its people.

Under the rallying cry of #CoverTheProgress, and together with our newly painted sign at the iconic Humacao intersection as our visual centerpiece, we would demand fair, forward-looking coverage of Puerto Rico’s tourism industry, and the resilient people whose economic future was at stake.

We would be the first site of a major natural disaster to pre-empt the typical negative news cycle and hurricane anniversary narrative -- because, in truth, so much recovery progress had been made on the island of Puerto Rico.


We returned to the Humacao neighborhood and shot new aerial images of the same intersection that had once proclaimed a desperate S.O.S., this time colorfully decorated and greeting the world with a big “Bienvenidos! (Welcome!)” #CoverTheProgress!

We created a toolkit of visual content to inspire media to #CoverTheProgress, including 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 and our new visual on CNN — the outlet that had first released the S.O.S. image that went viral. Then we went wide, pitched online and print travel, consumer lifestyle, and hard news outlets. Local businesses, travel industry partners, hotels and airlines joined us in sharing real-time images of recovery. Our 100+ travel influencers and media associates helped drive a #CoverTheProgress movement.

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