A Communication Plan That Changes Minds and Gets Results.
Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport (BRD) retained Strateligent’s services to find out if it was advertising in the right places. Could we help determine the best places to advertise? Sure. But our approach to communication goes deeper than where to place ads and freshening up some content—it’s delivering the right message, to the right people, in the right way, at the right time. And it all starts with a communication plan.
A communication plan contains the strategy we use to help our clients reach their goals. It’s how we know what we’re doing and reminds us why we’re doing it. We use the communication plan to ensure we’re consistent in everything we do. It’s the content strategy behind the advertising: the schedule, the media insertion, the message and audience, and more. It’s a creative process—and it’s one Strateligent has mastered.
We start with market research—getting to know our clients, their businesses, and their customers. With BRD, we spoke with the airport executive director, commissioners, and tenants. Over the years, they’d made incredible upgrades to the terminal and gate, made check-ins easier, traded the turboprop planes for Delta jets, and enhanced TSA security. We also compared BRD’s on-time arrival performance to that of the closest major airport, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP). According to Bureau of Transportation
Statistics, BRD had a higher on-time rate than MSP in 2018.
Even with the upgrades and more on-time flights, approximately 80% of travelers in the Brainerd Lakes Area still drove or took a shuttle service to MSP instead of flying BRD—our next step was finding out why.
Understanding local travelers’ perceptions helped fine-tune our message. Business travelers told us they flew MSP because they had a bad experience 10 or more years ago, they feared flying in puddle jumpers, or they just didn’t want to deal with flights that were frequently delayed or cancelled. While these are all very good reasons for not wanting to fly out of a particular airport, our market research showed that these no longer applied to BRD. Flights out of BRD have a higher on-time rate than MSP, and BRD now has all the features of a major travel hub—two and half hours closer to home.
BRD needed to bust misconceptions (e.g., delays), inform (e.g., upgrades to terminal, new jets), and change an entire mindset. To do this, our content strategy focused on consistent, persistent, and positive messaging that showed why flying BRD is worth it.
We focused on media that would reach the greatest number of people and have the greatest effect in shifting their thinking—new, targeted radio ads, thoughtful yet simple outdoor advertising, and a web design that aligns with the airport’s actual 21st century amenities.
To change minds, the message needed to resonate. We put the previous BRD radio ads out to pasture, instead targeting three distinct audiences (precisely defined in the communication plan) with specific messaging aboutwhat made BRD worth it. Business travelers learned how to save time and money by getting to their destinations sooner. Families heard about how easy traveling with kids could be. Area residents learned the benefits of local aircraft in other ways, from emergency medical transportation and forest fire control to next- or two-day shipping.
New billboards went up on the route to MSP, with the message, “If you flew BRD you’d be there already.” Travelers instantly feel the value because it relates to what they are doing at that moment (still driving) and why it matters (instead of driving, they could be there).
The new, modern web design is mobile-friendly and more like that of a larger airport. By collaborating with Google Flights, customers now can easily purchase airfare departing and returning from BRD. Far from the old, dated website’s inconsistent fonts and low-quality photos, the new site accurately represents BRD as the safe, trustworthy, and legitimate airport that it is—#WorthIt. See for yourself: brainerdairport.com.
Although we started working on the BRD project a year ago, the momentum is already building, and we’re seeing a shift in perceptions.
“Since the airing of the ads, combined with a revised flight schedule, passenger enplanements have increased to trend-setting numbers,” said Steve Wright, airport director. “The staff at Strateligent understands the needs of our area residents and visitors. They’ve been successful using market research to create our communication plan and get results. Similar to the value of Flying BRD, our relationship with Strateligent is worth it.”
Long-term goals start with small changes. Not every traveler will fly BRD every time, but getting people to think about BRD when booking a flight is a start—and it’s one step closer to the long-term goal of increasing passengers, growing airport tenants, offering more flights, and eventually, international connections. Developing a communication plan and framing a content strategy is daunting. It’s not easy. It takes time. But as our clients will tell you—it pays off.