How to be Pro When Doing PR for Aviation?

April 21 2020

While I’m writing this, the vast majority of all commercial passenger aircraft are grounded as global and domestic travel is mostly prohibited. However, once this picture changes, airlines will need to quickly regain the trust of passengers and get back into a professional communications mode. This is when communications agencies can step in. But what are the main points to keep in mind, especially if aviation was not your primary industry focus in past years?

Love the topic:
The aviation industry is full of aviation nerds and people who truly love all aspects of flying. So, if you have serious apprehension about the aviation industry, such as environmental concerns or a fear of flying, you should find another client. This will be apparent to your client, and you won’t perform well as an aviation advocate.

Dive deep into the terminology:
Like every industry, aviation has its own language. If you’re not familiar with this language, insiders will immediately sense that you are new to the industry. If you are serious about breaking into the aviation industry, familiarize yourself with this language, starting with things like the aviation alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo …).
Contrary to other industries, much of aviation basic knowledge is common sense among broader parts of society. It becomes obvious quite quickly that you are not an aviation expert, if you do not even know which airliner they call a “Jumbo Jet” or which is the home country of Lufthansa. And if you think that “Concorde” is nothing but a French vegetable soup, your time will be better spent in another industry.

Limit your responsibility:
Frustrated passengers who don’t succeed at the customer care or the call center may try to find the PR agency and try to tell their stories that way. Don’t let yourself be immersed into that kind of stuff as it will cost you enormous time and energy, and it won’t lead you anywhere. Distance yourself from those issues; you won’t get paid for this. Never answer passenger inquiries, but instead define a clear line of reporting with the client – e.g. an internal e-mail address at the client where you can forward all such messages at the end of a day in a collective e-mail.

Be prepared for crises:
Airlines, airports and aircraft manufacturers face a broad variety of crises, ranging from weather and delay issues, employee and union topics, technical breakdowns and regulations to terrorism and severe accidents, and even loss of lives. And you can now add global pandemic to that list. Working as a PR pro for an aviation company is no cozy job as it can bring you into situations that you’d rather not face. And if you have to explain injuries or fatalities to media and even relatives in your role as a spokesperson, it may bring you to your emotional limits. In such situations, it’s more necessary than ever to listen to your inner compass: Remain committed to the truth. Act and speak as a human being to human beings. Never put business above people’s lives and emotions.

For somebody who is fascinated by aviation, it is a dream to work for an aviation company. There is nothing more satisfying than when personal interests meet professional challenges. And if it’s well paid, it’s almost perfect. The same applies here – so if you are one of these aviation nerds, prepare for better times. I think we will see a comeback of global air travel and a new need for responsible and professional communication in that field.

Robert Bauer
Managing Partner, accelent communications
Having graduated from the University of Vienna with a degree in communications and musicology, Robert Bauer has been in PR since 1995. Steps in his career include positions in marketing and at some of Austria’s publishing houses. In 2002, he joined Menedetter PR, then one of Austria’s most renowned PR agencies. In 2011 he co-founded accelent communications (formerly asoluto public relations) with two business partners. accelent communications now ranks among the top 10 PR agencies in Austria. Robert served as PRGN President in 2020-2021.

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