Airports of all sizes support a variety of services and activities in addition to commercial, business, and private air travel. Sharing information about those roles with the public is part of creating connections and support.
A positive perception of the airport in the community is a valuable thing. Airport managers can take the lead in sharing the positive messages about the airport and its connections and contributions to the community. A positive message about the airport can replace information from vocal opponents. An organized public relations program that involves the community will help educate the public on the value of the airport to the entire community and will change the community conversation about the airport.
Actions by the airport to inform and involve the public will help to establish a communication system and a positive relationship, providing a solid foundation for cooperation and conflict resolution should issues arise. This conclusion was a key take-away from the phone interviews that were conducted as part of the initial research effort for ACRP Project 03-31. It was also a finding in
ACRPSynthesis 65 Practices to Develop Effective Stakeholder Relationships at Smaller Airports which included the following statement:
“Proactively building and maintaining positive ongoing stakeholder relationships that are characterized by open communication, transparency, and trust is a key to being able to resolve issues and/or meet mutual goals” (Pg. 33).
The media kit is intended to provide a collection of outreach ideas and tools that can be used in combination with the technical aviation topic information provided in the aviation toolkit. It is divided into three sections.
Understand: Basic Media Kit
Information about media tools and links to many existing media resources.
Explore: Telling the Story
Focuses on the benefits of public speaking opportunities as a way to create relationships and provides information by identifying audiences and strategies.
Take Action: Connecting with the Community
Suggests ways to get the public out to the airport with the goal of establishing a sense of connection and understanding.
- Understand: Basic Media Kit
Understand: The basic media kit provides information on communications tools and strategies that are the ‘nuts and bolts’ of an airport advocacy effort.
The Basic Media Kit is designed to provide a quick and convenient guide to many of the resources that are already available for airports and organizations generally. The kit is organized to begin with ideas about the airport manager’s role as the “face of the airport” – the person that is uniquely positioned to be the representative of and advocate for the airport.
Next, three traditional media tools are briefly introduced and supported by a collection of resources. The tools offer several “wizards” to create customized media tools including press releases and website pages.
The last piece of the Understand section of the media kit is designed to help your airport reach out directly to local media outlets and connect with the reporters and journalists who tell the airport’s story.
- The Airport Manager and Public Relations: A brief discussion of some of the roles and responsibilities of Airport Managers in building relationships with their airport and local community. [Details]
- Developing a Brand and a Marketing Plan: Identifies two simple ways to help increase public outreach for your airport. [Details]
- Traditional Media Tools and Press Kit: Learn different ways you can promote your airport through traditional methods of media such as printed newspaper articles. [Details]
- Website and Social Media Tools: Learn how to use your airport’s personal website to connect with the public. Also, this topic explores a number of social media applications. [Details]
- Media Relations: The relationship between Airport Managers and local media contacts and potential strategic options Airport Managers may use to help promote their airport. [Details]
Explore: The airport – and specifically the airport manager – can proactively tell the airport’s story in the community to educate and build positive relationships.
The story of the airport is a multi-layered message about the many roles and benefits that the airport brings to the community. Some of the message is general to the benefits of aviation – both
GAand commercial –in the U.S. This content can be built through the resources found in the aviation toolkit topics with a special emphasis on the Role of the Airport and the airport’s Economic benefits. At the same time, some of the message will be tailored to your specific airport.
What is the story that needs to be told about your airport? The answer depends in part on the unique characteristics of your airport, in part on the audience for the message and in part on the issues that need to be advanced proactively in anticipation of potential future issues. How the story is told will also be shaped by decisions that have been made by the airport about Developing a Brand and a Marketing Plan described in Developing a Brand and a Marketing Plan.
Once the story is identified, it needs to be told to a variety of audiences. Identifying those audiences and making connections with the right message is the next step in telling the airport’s story. These include elected and appointed community leaders as well as economic development, community service, neighborhood and environmental groups. Each message can be customized to fit the audience. Keep in mind that because the group membership changes over time, the story needs to be told over and over again.
At first, presentations may be made only by the Airport Manager and executive staff. Over time, there are opportunities to build a speaker’s bureau or a friends of the airport group whose membership can help tell the story. In either case, this communication loop also builds a relationship between the airport and the community. The personal relationship of people knowing each other builds support for the airport and provides a starting point for addressing concerns or resolving conflicts when they arise.
- Identifying the Story: It is up to the airport to “tell the story” about the airport. The story will be a combination of the general benefits of aviation combined with the unique features of the individual airport. [Details]
- Finding Your Audience and Telling the Story: Your audience is made up of a variety of external stakeholders including airport users, airport tenants, policymakers, the general public and economic stakeholders. [Details]
- Telling the Story Again: Turn-over in elected and appointed positions and membership organizations is to be expected but it means that outreach to all of these groups is an on-going effort. [Details]
- Telling the Story in Different Ways: Connecting with the groups that can be supportive of the airport allows the airport to develop valuable and effective advocates – formally and informally – who can help tell the airport’s story. [Details]
ACRPSynthesis 65 Practices to Develop Effective Stakeholder Relationships at Smaller Airports
A concise overview of current industry practices.
ACRPReport 16 Guidebook for Managing Small Airports
Chapter 5, Public Relations provides insight into establishing relationships with the community.
ACRPReport 28 Marketing Guidebook for Small Airports
Part 3, Implementation of the Plan includes chapters on Public Relations Tools and Networking Opportunities.
Take Action: People connect with the airport when they visit the airport and have a “hands on” experience.
The airport sometimes seems to be an island that can be better integrated with the community. There are active steps that an airport can take to create a relationship with the community. This includes both things the airport does for the community and ways the airport management and staff participate in community organizations. Airport actions range from tours and events at the airport to monetary awards, to nonprofit organizations and scholarships to students. Airport participation includes serving on community boards and volunteering in school reading programs.
People often become supporters of the airport once they visit the airport and have a “hands on” experience. The airport becomes real when people have the opportunity to be there and see the airplanes. A visit to the airport often creates a sense of ownership – an understanding that this is the airport in my community and it is a public use airport.
Airports with commercial service have people visiting for their own air travel or to meet a friend or family member. But even airports with commercial service will reach more of the community by offering events and other reasons to visit the airport. Visits to the airport for reasons other than air travel can increase people’s understanding of the many roles of the airport and increase the community connection. This section explores some of the many ways that people may be encouraged to visit the airport.
- Tours: Inform your airport’s community of the past, present, and future of your airport, and what it contains and can provide to the community. [Details]
- Restaurant and Retail: Restaurants and retail are two aspects of airport revenue that can leave great lasting impressions on passengers both frequent and infrequent. [Details]
- Meeting Space: A simple and easy way for your airport to earn revenue is to rent out a hangar, conference room, or any extra airport space for public and private events. [Details]
- Events: Take the initiative of growing your local aviation community around your airport by hosting fun and educational public events for people of all ages and aviation experience. [Details]
- Awards and Scholarships: Another way to gain positive exposure to the local community is by giving back and providing awards and scholarships for educational and community excellence. [Details]
- Hands-On Community Involvement: If need be, volunteers are a great asset to have as airports are always looking for free assistance and building positive relationships with the local community. [Details]