This is one of a series of articles on how content marketing fueled a company’s success. The original article is publisher on LinkedIn.
What is now viewed as trivia, is how important PR was to making the Concorde airplane a success.
When it was introduced in the early 1970s, it was equipped with the world’s most powerful jet engines. Its four Rolls Royce engines took advantage of what was known at that time as “reheat” technology. This, according to British Airways, “added fuel to the final stage of the engine, which produced the extra power required for take-off and the transition to supersonic flight.”
Its fastest transatlantic crossing was on February 7, 1996, when it traveled from New York to London in just under three hours. The iconic aircraft finally went into retirement in 2003, mainly because of low passenger numbers, prohibitive costs, a terrible accident, and the aftermath of September 11.
However, what a lot of people do not know is that the Concorde faced so many challenges, it’s a wonder it got off the ground in the first place.
The first big obstacle: noise.
Governments around the world were concerned about the very loud noise from the plane when it was taking off. In time, one country after another banned the Concorde from traveling in their airspace, which almost doomed the plane’s future existence.
To help turn things around, the company’s PR/public relations firm was hired to “proactively debunk” these noise concerns.
One of the first things the PR firm did to pacify those complaining about noise was to record the Concorde taking off and compare the noise it made to traditional airplanes taking off. Few could tell the difference. The PR firm made sure these results were sent out loud and clear.
Then the agency took the next step, focusing on the business benefits of the Concorde for airports around the world. More travelers — and very well-heeled travelers — would be flying into and out of these airports. This meant money in the airport door.
Among other steps the PR firm took were the following:
Press conferences and press releases: The Concorde’s manufacturers issued regular news releases and held press conferences to keep the public informed about the aircraft’s development and progress. This generated positive press coverage of the Concorde, which helped to build public acceptance.
Celebrity endorsements: Concorde’s manufacturers also secured endorsements from celebrities, such as actors, musicians, and politicians. Among them were model Christie Brinkley, fashion designer Calvin Klein, singer Michael Jackson, and artist Andy Warhol. This helped to give the Concorde a sense of glamour and exclusivity, which made it more appealing to potential passengers.
Events and exhibitions: The manufacturers also organized events and exhibitions to showcase the aircraft, including inviting journalists and VIPs to fly on the Concorde and displaying the aircraft at air shows and other public events. This gave people a firsthand experience of the Concorde, which helped to generate positive word-of-mouth.
Advertising: We can’t forget advertising. Concorde’s manufacturers used advertising to introduce the aircraft — print ads, television commercials, and even a Concorde-themed Monopoly game. However, the ads were typically followed by the PR campaign. As is the case in most marketing situations, advertising introduces a product/PR explains the features and benefits of the product.
Soon the PR marketing program started paying off.
The first U.S. airport to allow the Concorde access was Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. This helped government leaders fly in and out of the U.S. quickly. With this feather in their cap, the marketing firm wanted to open the door to New York’s JFK International Airport for business travelers.
That took a little time, but as soon as that was attained, the plane really started taking off. While the Concorde was never designed to travel to airports all over the world, because of the PR firm’s efforts, enough governments and enough airports around the globe opened their doors to the Concorde to make it a success.
The plane eventually went from a very rocky start to one of the most iconic airplanes in aviation history.
Robert Kravitz is president of AlturaSolutions, which provides communications strategies for B2B industries. He can be reached at: email@example.com