Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s new distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains more than 200 hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses. For membership information, please click here.
It was Valentine’s Day, and a couple of star-struck lovers—US Airways and American Airlines—announced their intention to wed.
Not JetBlue, though. The proud independent airline wasn’t about to give up its single status. So in a stroke of social media inspiration, JetBlue got in on all the merger coverage with a blog entry, says Allison Steinberg, author and editor of the airline’s BlueTales blog.
JetBlue posted a picture of a heart-shaped candy with the words: “Single & Lovin’ It,” along with a note calling it “a great day for all those unattached folks out there to celebrate their independence!”
Success? Are you kidding? It was a huge hit.
Steinberg urges other organizations to jump on the blog bandwagon. “I’m the spokesperson full-time for JetBlue, and the blog is probably the most interesting part of my job but the one that comes at the end of the day,” she says.
If you aren’t sure how you’ll feed the blog beast, here are some ideas:
1. Repurpose internal content externally.
Many organizations have tons of content on internal channels that would work outside as well. JetBlue finds stories all the time in internal website, Hello JetBlue, and daily newsletter for 15,000 crew members.
“This is a great and easy way to pull content that already exists and readapt it for audiences externally,” Steinberg says.
Example? JetBlue partners with KaBOOM! to build playgrounds in underserved areas. When the airline published a story for employees—rich with photos—the package worked for the blog as well.
[FREE DOWNLOAD: How to manage online feedback and brand reputation]
2. Be nimble—and be prepared.
JetBlue knew the merger of US Airways and American Airlines was coming. A graphic artist added the words “Single & Lovin’ It” to the picture of a candy.
The concept was simple, yet the post was the most engaged ever, with more than 7,000 shares on Facebook.
Under the picture, JetBlue listed recent mergers of big airlines. Then it added, “Just because we’re single, though, doesn’t mean we don’t like dating. Check out our growing list of fabulous airline partners.”
3. Post—and expand on—your press releases.
Press releases and updates are great to use when you’re in the news. “It’s a huge help in cutting down on calls from reporters during a crisis,” Steinberg says.
Also, expand on the information in the press release. Write a blog post with supporting information. Provide deeper content, embedded video, or additional images that you don’t issue with the press release.
“It provides a really good support for your formal announcement, as well as an alternative,” Steinberg says.
4. Share some of that data you’re warehousing.
“We know that reporters love facts and figures,” she says. “We know that as companies we want to share those great numbers.”
Make sure your blog stories are rich with information. Airlines, for example, have lots of operational stats that reporters, employees, and customers alike are interested in.
5. Follow that employee!
Create human interest stories and videos. These stories bring personality and put faces and names to a big brand. JetBlue has features such as “A Day in the Life,” which tells about its staff, most recently with a video on an administrative supervisor at JFK airport.
Another story describes the reunion of a young traveler and a pilot who invited him up to the cockpit a decade ago. The boy, now 14, aspires to become a pilot.
“These types of stories go a really long way in building customer loyalty and creating this informed audience,” Steinberg says.
Bonus benefit: Such stories are popular internally as you celebrate high-performing employees.
6. Answer ‘seldom asked questions.’
The blog’s “Unpacked” feature demystifies topics in the airline industry, Steinberg says. If Facebook and Twitter serve as JetBlue’s FAQs, the BlueTales blog answers the “seldom-asked questions.”
These can be questions such as, what is turbulence, anyway? What happens if my plane gets hit by lightning? What happens to my bag when it leaves my hands at the airport?
JetBlue answers such questions and goes into the behind-the-scenes operations at the airport. Transparency helps to build up good will, Steinberg says.
“It goes a long way in ending the crisis quickly and maintaining our customers’ faith,” she adds.
7. Explain yourself during major news events.
Hurricane Sandy hit the New York-based JetBlue hard, Steinberg says. In the days leading up to the landing, it was moving its planes out of the path of the storm and preparing for the blast of rain and high winds. It created infographics and shared photos for the media.
The media grab this content—such as the picture of LaGuardia Airport underwater—without being pitched. JetBlue doesn’t have to arrange interviews with executives. Travelers benefit, too.
“This reaches the folks in sunny California wondering why my plane’s not flying,” Steinberg says. “What’s more telling than an image of LaGuardia Airport under water during a storm?”
8. Encourage employees to contribute.
JetBlue staffers know that if they have a great image, story, or customer, they should send it to the communications team.
“You have all these little internal reporters out there mining for stories and mining for content,” Steinberg says.