For PR Professionals, the Sky's the Limit

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Posted At: October 27, 2008 12:20 PM
by Whitney Taylor

Some say actions speak louder than words, and after considering the intensely competitive world of air travel, airlines are taking notice and doing just that. Make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened—public relations practitioners are stowing the standard press release in the overhead bin and taking their public relations efforts to new cruising altitudes.

Safety … and fashion first
While many passengers may choose to ignore the mandatory onboard safety instructions required by the Federal Aviation Administration prior to departure, Delta Air Lines generated buzz last February with the introduction of its new safety video posted to the corporate blog and YouTube Web site.

The video features Katherine Lee, a beautiful flight attendant dubbed “Deltalina” by her online followers, who adds a level of humor to the video as she playfully smiles, flirts with the camera and walks passengers through the standard safety instructions.

Chris Babb, the Delta project manager for the video, stated on the corporate blog that he wanted to make the video more “fresh, modern and human.”

To date, the video has been viewed over one million times on YouTube causing Delta to further play into its popularity. In Atlanta, Ga., the hometown of the Delta Air Lines headquarters, fans of the Atlanta Falcons are greeted by “Deltalina” on the Jumbotron in the Georgia Dome before each home game. Lee explains the “proper” pre-game procedures to fans, and even explains “what to do in case of a touchdown.”

Since her debut, Lee has been interviewed on CNN, Fox News, and even accompanied talk show host Ellen DeGeneres on a Delta flight from Los Angeles to New York where they not only entertained passengers with onboard flight safety instructions and comical demonstrations, but they kept the flight lively with a game of charades.

In addition to keeping up with the online trends, Delta is keeping its appearance fresh, as well. Delta recently enlisted in the help of world-renowned designer Richard Tyler to bring back the era of glamorous air travel. Tyler designed sophisticated and functional pieces for flight attendants, such as wrap dresses, peacoats, felt hats and silk scarves, to further enhance Delta’s image.

Delta has also been celebrating October as National Breast Cancer Awareness month in style. Female flight attendants have even been wearing the Richard Tyler limited-edition Pink Dress while passengers have the option of buying pink lemonade on flights where proceeds benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Gone nuts
Delta is not the only airline taking advantage of online promotions and trying to maintain a “fun” reputation amongst airline carriers. Southwest Airlines is marking their spot in the cyberspace world with their “Nuts About Southwest” blog, as well. The blog features video options, podcasts, current news, polls and access to Southwest’s media center and public relations representatives 24/7. While the blog is extremely informative, it is by no means what some would consider “normal.” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly recently requested customers’ help in determining a suitable Halloween costume that will live up to those of recent years (Kelly has dressed up as Gene Simmons from KISS and Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean” in the past).

Kelly is not the only Southwest employee getting in the Halloween spirit. Southwest Airlines has recently teamed up with the largest Halloween retailer, Spirit Halloween Superstores, which is providing decorations for the ticket counters in 64 of Southwest’s cities, as well as treats for flight attendants to pass out to customers on flights. Southwest also uses Halloween for internal team building every year when they turn their home in Dallas, Texas, into a “Haunted Headquarters” for a day of celebration and employee skits.

Going green (and bald)
With the current economic situation causing many travelers to clutch their purse strings tighter recently, Air New Zealand is trying to keep a “head” above the competition with its latest campaign. This month, Air New Zealand is paying 30 people in Los Angeles to shave their heads where “Need a Change? Head Down to New Zealand” will be temporarily tattooed.

Roger Poulton, the airline’s vice president in North America, said that Californians need a change because of the gas prices, economy, bank situation, housing market and the November presidential election.

“What better way to illustrate a dramatic transformation than to shave one’s head?”Poulton said.

Aside from the airline’s current “cranial campaign,” Air New Zealand is trying to connect with an eco-friendly customer base in the skies and in the office.

The New Zealand carrier is currently researching alternatives to fueling their planes with fossil fuels by using weed plants and algae as possible biofuel substitutes.

This green campaign is not only pushed upon Air New Zealand’s customers, it is branded into corporate culture as a part of their daily routine in the office. Last year, the company made various efforts to reduce energy use at its corporate headquarters by installing electricity-saving technology to reduce unused lighting and providing employees with bicycles to use for work transportation.

With an unstable economy and an uncertain future, travelers are now being forced to carefully contemplate possible trips, destinations and airline carriers more than ever. However, although there may be many airlines to choose from, public relations specialists are making the decision a bit easier for customers with their innovative and eye-catching PR efforts.

So, kick back and enjoy the flight. Expect the new ideas to keep coming and don’t count on an emergency landing any time soon.

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