Travel delays offer communications opportunity

As airline delays affected thousands of travelers this week, some companies used the crisis to leverage products and services that could ease the plights of the stranded travelers.

As airline delays affected thousands of travelers this week, some companies used the crisis to leverage products and services that could ease the plights of the stranded travelers.

Airlines waived fees and provided hotel vouchers, while a number of hotels, restaurants, tourist organizations, and cultural institutions offered discounts to people stuck on either side of the Atlantic.

While promoting a company's product or service during an international crisis is often criticized as in poor taste, the lengthy travel delays are different and, if anything, offer a communications opportunity for a range of industries.

Outside of the travel and tourism industry, only a few companies have totally embraced the occasion to reach out to the growing number of stranded travelers. In particular, several news reports looked at Skype and Cisco Systems as corporate examples of companies reporting an increase in business over the past week.

Skype's resident blogger took to the company blog to communicate that it was offering free WiFi in 100,000 hotspots globally for a week to stranded travelers. Cisco retweeted an employee's link to the company's free Web conference service and some Cisco executives were quoted in news stories covering the issue.

While both companies used social media to push a message and reach out to current or potential customers, there is much more room for companies with a vested interest in the people affected by the travel delays to provide further, more strategic outreach.

For companies that provide a service such as teleconferencing, the communications message is often driven by globalization and the role that technology can play in easing pressures for global businesses seeking to cut costs.

Tapping into a network of potential customers, all with a defined current need, should have been more strategic. Though Skype and Cisco took the lead this time around, there is more that could be done in the future.

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