A Winning Advocacy Campaign on Behalf of the US Aviation Industry

  • Digital
  • Government Relations
  • Public Relations

Challenge

Confronted with domestic consumer demand for lower airfare and increasing disdain for US airlines, the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) faced an uphill battle against Norwegian Air International (NAI), a new foreign state-owned carrier seeking to gain more access to the US marketplace at the expense of the US aviation industry. NAI created a scheme to seek a permit that would grant the airline unprecedented access to fly in and out of the United States, taking routes away from domestic carriers and threatening tens of thousands of US aviation jobs. In order to protect its industry, ALPA came to the Podesta Group to help them convince the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to deny the application of this foreign carrier.

Strategy

The Podesta Group devised and executed a public affairs strategy that identified the audiences that ALPA needed to reach and their views on related issues, crafted online messages customized to appeal to these varied audiences, and engaged relevant digital and traditional media outlets and influencers to build a community of advocates to champion the cause. Recognizing that all politics is digital, the Podesta Group conducted thorough online research to inform and guide the campaign strategy. This comprehensive analytics program provided a deep understanding of how, where and by whom ALPA's priority issues were talked about online.

Leveraging ALPA's Save Our Skies (SOS) campaign, a larger initiative recommended by the Podesta Group, the Podesta Group launched the "Deny NAI" campaign. The campaign aimed to unite pilots, domestic airlines and citizens in their opposition against NAI. The campaign engaged with key audiences and influencers through a carefully crafted and targeted combination of message delivery platforms and advocacy, including digital, traditional, earned, paid and social media, and direct government relations.

To increase the noise, the Podesta Group rallied thousands of pilots and allies online through an advocacy website that connected champions directly with policymakers. Supported by a robust content effort on social media, blogs and in direct email marketing, the Podesta Group generated massive organic online support. And by engaging the influencers who mattered most, the voices of thousands of employees threatened by NAI's application reverberated in Washington. The Podesta Group also launched an aggressive digital and traditional advertising program directed at decision-makers in 12 states and Washington, DC.

Results

Thanks to an informed and thoughtful strategy, targeted outreach and engagement with key audiences, an onslaught of persuasive messages, and the repeated delivery of compelling content, the Podesta Group delivered a winning public affairs campaign on ALPA's behalf. The campaign created a movement of ALPA supporters that ultimately generated an outcry against NAI that DOT and the White House could not ignore. In late 2014, DOT denied NAI's request for temporary authorization to fly to and from the US.

Among the wins, the Podesta Group:

  • reached 80.5 million people online
  • reached 5.2 million people in one month via more than 3,200 social media posts by and about ALPA and tweets using the hashtag #denyNAI
  • generated more than 22,000 visits to the SOS.ALPA.ORG website with a peak "click through rate" of 4.2 percent
  • earned wide attention from national and regional press, including Forbes, Politico, Miami Herald and The Hill
  • garnered more than 34,000 online petition signatures and comments that were sent directly to DOT and members of Congress
  • built a movement that resulted in the US House of Representatives unanimously passing an amendment to a transportation funding bill stating that airlines receiving foreign carrier permits must uphold US laws