It is no revelation that beginning in March 2020, our professional and personal worlds have looked very different.
Personally, the past year robbed us of in-person interactions, vacations, restaurants, sporting events, large celebrations, and classroom learning.
Professionally, it took away in-person meetings, business travel, group presentations, and annual events or fundraisers. It caused organizations to function on minimal resources and dramatically cut budgets, which forced business leaders to rethink and restructure most aspects of their operations, as well as communication efforts.
On a more reflective note, the past 12 months seem to have taken away one more concept from our organizational culture: the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality. Businesses can consider this year as a clean slate and challenge themselves to be intentional with their processes and people by reintroducing their business plan.
Before preparing for a quarterly client presentation, ask yourself and your team: Is this the most effective way to reach our target audience or hit our goal?
Before you plan an annual event or fundraiser, ask yourself and your team: Is this the best use of our resources?
In the aviation industry, 2020, and into 2021, has been unlike anything we’ve witnessed. At McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) specifically, 2020 put a screeching halt to our 44-month streak of consecutive passenger growth, and over the course of just one month, reduced our passenger traffic by 95.5%.
And while our passenger numbers are starting to slowly increase, it will take years for our growth to exceed 2019, when we welcomed 2.5 million passengers through the airport.
The lack of passengers, along with our reduced resources and budgets, caused us to postpone and rethink airport programs and amenities that we have offered for many years.
At the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, one example is our Aviation Academy.
The Aviation Academy is an annual, five-night program created to raise awareness of what it takes to successfully operate TYS and what crucial role the community plays in the flights and services available at the facility. The Academy provides business and community leaders a behind-the-scenes look at commercial, military and general aviation and introduces them to key organizations that play a significant role in the day-to-day operations of the airport.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not host the 2020 Aviation Academy. As we considered our plan for 2021, and instead of arbitrarily moving the program to a virtual platform, we are revisiting the initial goal of this program and the strategies that make it successful.
A few questions we are asking ourselves internally: Will the Aviation Academy be as beneficial to participants if it is hosted online rather than in-person at the airport? Can participants get to know key airport officials and their classmates through a video teleconference? Will we really be creating “airport ambassadors” if participants never step foot on the airport campus?
While we would prefer to offer the program in the spring like we have for the past eight years, we do not want to dilute the benefits of the Academy by offering it virtually.
I encourage you to intentionally reevaluate your company’s annual plans and communications. The “we’ve always done it this way” mentality isn’t applicable after the year we’ve had, so here is an opportunity to improve your business processes and assure they are still adding value and success to your organization.
Caitlin Darras is the Senior Public Relations Specialist at the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority and serves as Immediate Past President of the Volunteer Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.