Public Relations and the Friendly Skies

The aviation and transportation industries keep soaring and PR is along for the ride.

Courtney Gee is the Public Relations Specialist at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer, South Carolina. She worked five years in the journalism profession as a News Producer and has been doing Public Relations for a year now. She has a bachelor's in Communications (Radio-TV-Film) from Texas Christian University and a master's in Journalism from the University of North Texas.

The aviation and transportation industry is growing because more people are choosing to fly. According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic travel increased by 1.3% in 2016. The same organization states domestic travel supports 7.4 million jobs in America. The increase in demand has spurred airports across the nation to expand physically, by adding terminals and gates and in service, adding more flights to their daily schedule. With all of this growth, it’s time for public relations professionals to shine.

About Greenville – Spartanburg International Airport

This summer, the airport has seen tremendous growth with an 8.9 percent increase in passenger traffic during the month of June. This growth is significant because GSP International Airport is about one hour away from Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) and about two hours away from the busiest airport in the nation, Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (ATL). Because of our proximity, people living in the Upstate often fly out of one of those two airports because of cheaper fares and non-stop flight availability. Therefore, it’s important for GSP International Airport to stay relevant and develop new ways to cater to customers. As the Public Relations Specialist, I promote the airport to the public and the media giving them reasons to choose GSP as their airport of choice. To name a few, GSP offers the best customer service, it’s convenient, and easy to navigate from the parking lot to the gate.

Social Media and Community Engagement

It’s my goal to keep GSP Airport at the top of travelers’ minds when making travel arrangements and social media helps us achieve it. People want to read about topics that impact them directly or are of human interest. For example, posts about military members reuniting with families after deployment, parents meeting their adopted children for the first time at the airport and finding the owner of a lost stuffed animal are stories that perform the best on social media. But it’s also important to learn what the community thinks about the airport. I recently launched a social media campaign asking people what they like about the airport, especially since the completion of our $125 million terminal renovation project and while the feedback runs the gamut, I take each comment into consideration.

Our goal is to get people to take pride in their hometown airport and another way we encourage this relationship is at community events. We have tents, signage and free giveaways at several community events with huge turnouts each year. Our attendance keeps us visible and at the top of the mind with travelers.

Public Relations and Traditional Media

When working with traditional media, it’s my goal to get the airport television and newspaper coverage at least twice a month. I’m always looking for new and interesting things happening at the airport for the media to cover. Some stories are easy to pitch like TSA Precheck enrollment or a new flight service to a new city. But some ideas are more of a challenge like the implementation of new fuel farm. Either way, it’s important to keep a working relationship with the media.

Regardless of industry, I’ve learned how important it is to be innovative and creative as a public relations practitioner.. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s essential to capture customer’s attention and build trust and loyalty for our brand. Here’s some advice I follow and offer to anyone new to public relations: know your brand, know your audience and remain true to it. If you lose sight of that, your customers will notice the difference.

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© 2020 by Danielle Marshall

Louisville, KY