Using the Net to its full advantage
By Robert Hager, Michael Schiefer, & Larry Weiner, Creative Force
Websites have been described as living brochures. Properly created and administered, one can be changed constantly to offer the most up-to-date information. It can also be a public relations press kit, a press conference, and even a place where commerce can take place. The Web's potential uses are virtually unlimited and growing each day.
There are generally a wide variety of different service businesses and manufacturers operating on airport grounds. In some ways, an airport can be seen a microcosm of a city. Each business is a part of the community, and as such each works toward common goals — the ultimate success of the facility and making an airport visitor's experience a positive one. A comprehensive Internet marketing program can bring all the airport elements together and create a connected community online. An airport can provide a host of benefits to its varied audience: pilots, passengers, tenants, the neighboring community, local and national media.
The first step is to set website objectives. This can be easier said than done. Many aviation organizations sense they need a website, but to take that from the abstract and translate it into a set of tangible and palpable objectives can be a challenge.
The process of creating a set of objectives is no different for developing an Internet marketing program as it would be for any other traditional marketing plan. For example, many airports have ongoing public relations problems with nearby communities. Area residents can be understandably concerned with noise and some particularly active residents constantly pepper the local media with issues designed to paint the airport in as bad a light as possible. If this is the case, improving public relations can be a website objective.
Another objective may be to seek potential tenants or even a private company to manage an airport facility, a fixed base operation, or an entire airport. Identifying objectives helps organize content information and site navigation. Once the objectives have been set forth, sit with a Web design team and create a diagram of the website and its links.
Each airport will have its own unique objectives. For example, a general aviation airport in the New York Metropolitan area may be a reliever airport, and it may be located in a heavily populated suburban area. An airport in Kentucky, however, certainly has different needs.
Following are some suggestions of types of website elements from which an airport can benefit:
• Why We Are Here
People living near any airport are nearly unanimous in their animus toward the facility. But, if the site explained why the airport is there and how it helps the local community, attitudes may change. This section could discuss how many jobs the airport facility has created, or how it may relieve traffic from other airports.
More importantly, airport management should take this opportunity to spell out how it understands the communities concerns, and what it is doing to address them.
• Operations Information
Airport websites can offer a world of important information to those expecting to use the facility. For example, visitors should be able to get information on virtually every facet of planning a trip into the airport's region. Help site visitors answer some questions ...
• FBOs, charter, flight training, and other tenants; their locations;
• Catering, limousine, car rental information;
• Does the facility exclusively cater to fixed-wing aircraft, or can helicopters also use the airport?
• Air/ground medical transport information;
• Regional geographic, mapping, information;