Sunday, February 10, 2008

High Flyin' PR

Pilots have sure hands, speak calmly, and don't panic in the face of a rapid plummet. The same skills are good for any PR pro to have. So it's good that Bruce Schedlbauer, a pilot as well as the PR man for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, didn't hit the eject button in the midst of a Grand Rapids Press story about more than a quarter of potential passengers choosing other airports.

In the face of this "rapid plummet" of passenger market share, Schedlbauer spoke calmly and honestly, acknowledged the troubles, couched the problem as an opportunity, went through a checklist of research about the situation, and generally assured anyone paying attention to this turbulence that those in charge of Ford Airport are in control.

The pilot has now put on the "no more bad airline puns" sign.

Some might have the instinct to make excuses or avoid comment. But addressing the situation is best. For one, the media will cover the airport because it is a government (Kent County) entity, and it is of considerable reader interest. Secondly, it's fundamental PR to communicate with all publics directly so there is no speculation and fear. Instead of feeling the airport has let us down, we learn that we are all in this situation together.

Speaking of that, MiBiz had an article this week (can't locate the link now) about the airport being the first impression people get of the West Michigan region. How true. And I was impressed that Ford International thinks of lots of details in that regard, from terminal design to making sure cabs are available. Any business in West Michigan that has clients or recruits come in from around the country should realize their vested stake in the success of the airport. Kudos to Schedlbauer and others for working with the local market in partnership.


Anonymous said...

If anyone has flown out of GRR in the last month or so (as I have, several times), they'd think the Press was UNDERstating the problem. The PR is the least of the airport's problems. Why did they a) shut down curbside check-in the week of the holidays; b) build a covered walkway with absolutely no overhead heating sources - this, in the middle of the worst winter in yeats, so that people waiting to be picked up need to wait in the freezing cold; and c) make the curbside drop-off markers so unclear that even the security guys aren't sure where to direct traffic?! It's total mismanagement - and the good news is, it's going to be this way for TWO YEARS while the parking ramp is built! No wonder people are choosing alternate airports!

Tim Penning, APR said...

Interesting feedback, anonymous.

Question: who has the account to handle PR for the ramp project?

Anonymous said...

S. S. T.

Anonymous said...

Can I add one more comment? Their real-time flight departures/arrivals on their website? It never ever works!! There's a constant message: Could not connect to Server B. Not very helpful, especially with typical Michigan weather.