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Handling a Crisis as Demonstrated by Delta Airlines


A few weeks ago, some PRSSA and PRowl members had the opportunity to attend the PRSSA ICON conference in Grapevine, Texas. This was an amazing experience where we had the chance to network, bond with each other, and gain professional knowledge through the many speakers that shared their expert insights.

The Delta Airlines session particularly stood out to me, during which we heard from Savannah Huddleston, the general manager and CEO of Communications, and Gina Laughlin, the vice president of Global Employee Communications. The airline industry was hit particularly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, so keeping communication clear for all stakeholders was a key aspect of keeping the business afloat. Therefore, they focused on their communication strategy during this time and talked us through how their strategy helped them keep employees and customers safe and informed throughout the pandemic. This of course meant getting as many employees vaccinated as possible, and at the present time, 95% of employees are. Not everyone was initially willing to get vaccinated, so Savannah and Gina’s goal became to ease worries. By communicating medical expertise, using targeted communications, creating anonymous office hours with Delta’s Chief Health Officer, and not mandating vaccinations, they reached this high number.

During the midst of the pandemic, Delta was still ranked #1 in Customer Satisfaction among airlines by J.D. Power. This is largely due to the efforts that the communications team implemented.

What was stressed throughout this session was that communication is never more important than during a crisis. Here are some tips that they gave for handling one and coming out stronger:

· Put “chips in the bank” early

· Know your audience

· Create and maintain strong channels

· Lean on trusted leaders

· Good storytelling is a must

· Say thank you – recognition is easy and costs nothing

Apply these tips to your future communications career!



This blog was written by Reilly O’Neill, Director of Digital Communications

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