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MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Last modified on October 3, 2012

Shaping opinions

ACI World’s director of communications and events, Cheryl Marcell, reflects on the importance of good marketing and communication.

As we can all understand and appreciate, airports have evolved from simply being public infrastructure venues and places where you transfer from one mode of transport to another to now being full-fledged businesses in their own right, creating critical economic impacts in communities around the world. 

The professional airport staff who execute the marketing and communications missions for their airports have taken on important duties directly in support of revenue generation, and the communication of mission and visions to all airport stakeholders. 

In the following pages of this publication, you will see some of the award winning marketing and communications programmes at airports in North America. 

You will read about airport branding and loyalty programmes, innovative customer service initiatives and how airports are not only managing customer expectations but exceeding them in many cases. 

I am confident you will understand that the marketing and communications professionals are the face and voice of our airports and what they do shapes the opinions both customers and stakeholders have of their airports. 

For the purposes of setting the stage for what follows on these important endeavours, I will provide a short introduction of the different disciplines of airport marketing and communications, and link their work and success to the revenue enhancement of our airports.

First, the air service development and marketing staff who work to add new city pairs and/or new carriers to the airport are critical to supporting the growth of our airports. As new routes are added, more revenue is generated from the flight activity and the airport is able to offer more choice to their passengers. 

A successful air service development programme can, in fact, draw more passengers from outside the natural catchment area of the airport and can extend the influence of the airport in areas not previously served. 

The specialised marketing team supporting air service development must be terrific sales people for their communities and understand airline economics thoroughly enough to create powerful and believable proposals for new service. 

Airline planners are managing their route structure in many cities in their network and often rely on the airport marketing teams for critical information about their regions. The airport team describe the unique features of their business and tourism environments and, following the implementation of new service, help introduce the new carrier and/or the new route to passengers and businesses.

Also important work for the airport marketing team is generating new passengers for the airport, so creative advertising and branding programmes are in place at most gateways around the world.

Airports certainly compete with other modes of transport, and well executed advertising and marketing programmes can sway passengers to choose the airport for their travel needs, which in turn, drive revenues to the airport.

On the communications side, airports are deploying the same tools that most businesses use now to communicate with their customers: impactful and engaging websites, customer feedback initiatives and social media. 

They also have a unique advantage over most businesses in that they have the airport campus and its real estate to communicate to passengers and other airport stakeholders. 

Airport information ambassadors or volunteers are valuable assets that support the customer service initiatives and increase the airport brand awareness. The volunteers offer the first impression that many visitors have of the airport and support the communications team by being the one-stop-shop for all passengers who have questions as they navigate through the airport. 

Frequent engagement between communications staff and the airport ambassadors ensure that a common message is being communicated. 

Media relations programmes are also not to be overlooked. Airport media and communications officials work to establish good working relationships with members of the media and are skilled at conveying the airport message in a positive manner. 

They see the media as an extension of their communications programmes, and use them to convey airport messages to a broad audience. Frequent engagement with the media is critical, so that when an emergency does occur, the media knows who to contact and feel comfortable that they are receiving as much information as can be released. 

Effective media relations programmes can generate positive coverage for the airport, which serves the communications mission and supports airport brand awareness. 

The way in which the airport is perceived can be driven by the media, so much attention is being paid to this work at airports around the world. 

It is clear that the marketing, communications and media relations programmes all work in tandem at airports to create good will and positive impressions in our communities.

Their work allows the airport economic engine to keep running at maximum capacity, creating greater impacts in the regions in which   they are located.

Increasing the profile of airports around the world is an important strategic objective of ACI, and one that is supported by the great work that is being done locally at airports. 

Airports are community assets that are here for the long-haul, and the marketing and communications professionals demonstrate each day the intrinsic value that airports have in how they connect their communities to the rest of the world. 

Supporting global trade and tourism in the air transportation system is the core mission of airports; supporting the economic health and sense of community pride is just as important.

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