Shaping Perceptions

SHAPING PERCEPTIONS NATA, AOPA offer assistance for improving community relations By Lindsay M. Hitch, Assistant Editor July 2001 The public’s perception of an airport plays a large role in determining its long-term success...

The major difference between the two associations’ handbooks is in the audiences for whom they are written. Because its membership is mainly airport users, AOPA’s "Obtaining Community Support for Your Local Airport" primarily focuses on efforts of an airport support group. The guidebook encourages working with airport managers and airport-based businesses in joint projects, but suggests activities the support group can do on its own, for the most part.
The community support guidebook is broken into five sections:
• organizing an airport group;
• public relations and political action;
• worth/value of the airport;
• airport noise, safety, and land use planning; and
• a resource guide.
Each section provides guidelines for specific aspects of public relations.
AOPA’s guidebook stresses two major points. First, an airport support group, even if organized initially by pilots, should include non-pilots and people not generally associated with the airport. Second, be prepared with facts. The easiest way to counter emotional arguments is with hard and fast statistics. The guidebook then goes on to list general statistics and explains how to determine numbers specific to each airport. AOPA’s materials also include an event planning checklist.
To obtain copies or for more information, contact NATA at (800)808-NATA or; or AOPA at (800)USA-AOPA or

AOPA’s Airport Support Network

Started in October 1997, the Airport Support Network is an airport advocacy group for AOPA members. The program includes a number of publications and visual aids for volunteers, including...
• Airports: A Valuable Community Resource, The Guide to Obtaining Community Support for Your Local Airport
• AOPA’s Guide to Land Use and Airport Noise
• The Complete Guide to Holding an Airport Open House
• Flying Friendly (video)
• Local Airports Across America (video)

11 Steps for Improving the Airport’s Image

NATA’s Community Relations Toolkit offers an eleven-step outline for use in improving the image and understanding of the airport. Some highlights ...

1) Remember to plan.
2) Find out who is looking for information about what’s going on regarding special interests in the community. Is it real estate developers and agents concerned with nearby property? Maybe schools, subdivisions, employment agencies? Make the calls, offer to meet with representatives, and give tours of aviation facilities.
3) Airports are usually tied to state or local government. Study the issues, form an opinion, and offer support when it makes sense. Be ready (with written statements) to tell the media.
4) Know the local media. Who reports on community events? Who writes about issues related to aviation and business? Contact these people and make recommendations.
5) Contact the airport and offer support of their efforts. Encourage employees to volunteer on standing or ad hoc committees which might need help. Offer to serve when a vacancy arises on the advisory committee.
6) Put the company’s best speaker forward. If given a chance to talk about what the company does, make sure the right person is delivering the message.
7) Canvas employees and create a list of organizations to which they belong. Let them know that company representatives are willing to meet with or speak to their groups if the occasion arises. Pitch in with sports team uniforms or perhaps a hole sponsorship at golf tournaments.
8) Be controversial without being combative. Community relations need to be nurtured ... it’s a relationship — not a war.
9) Look at the company facility as a possible site for civic groups to hold meetings. Hold an open house. Take the opportunity to conduct tours for guests. Give attendees parting gifts (pens, note pads, etc.).
10) When the company does something special, take pictures. If the Girl Scouts are on tour, snap a group photo. Be sure the troop gets copies and make an extra one to send to friends in the local media. If the company doesn’t tell people what it is doing, how will they know?
11)Get in touch with and support groups that are grooming the next generation of civic leaders, business owners, and journalists. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Jaycees, and Junior Achievers will grow up to be constituencies in the future. Explain aviation jargon, such as "secret" acronyms like FBO and avgas.

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