CHICAGO: United Airlines, never considered an especially enlightened company, is developing a major integrated campaign to rebuild its image with gay and lesbian travelers.
CHICAGO: United Airlines, never considered an especially
enlightened company, is developing a major integrated campaign to
rebuild its image with gay and lesbian travelers.
United had been the subject of a 1997 gay and lesbian boycott prompted
by its opposition to a San Francisco ordinance requiring companies doing
business with the city to offer domestic-partner benefits. Once the
courts ordered United to offer such benefits, the company implemented a
package that was broader than what San Francisco required - but the PR
damage had already been done.
’In terms of revenues, we didn’t see an impact from the boycott,’ said
United manager of media relations Matt Triaca. ’But we suffered a black
eye in the (gay and lesbian) community, and clearly it’s a market that
we want back.’
Indeed, one study conducted last September revealed that 45% of gays and
lesbians identified with American Airlines, while only 40% listed
United. Another survey found that 85% of gays and lesbians went on
vacations in 1999, compared with a national average of 64%; and that
roughly 45% of gays and lesbians took overseas trips, as opposed to only
9% of the total US population. Such stats make them an attractive
audience for airlines, not to mention the travel industry as a
Triaca wouldn’t say how much United plans to spend on PR for the new
campaign, but did say there were no plans to take on outside agency
While the PR component of the effort is still under wraps, it will
likely include everything from media relations to event sponsorships.
Advertising for the campaign will begin to appear in gay newspapers in
The gay and lesbian PR push is only one of a handful of projects on
United’s PR slate. The company is also searching for an agency to
support new product launches with consumer PR and branding work.
Triaca declined to comment on whether the ’new products’ were Internet
offerings (United operates its own site and partners with a number of
others). He described the search as ’informal,’ noting that no RFP has
been circulated. Presently, United works with Fleishman-Hillard.