40 Under 40 2017: Doug McGraw

Director, corporate communications, JetBlue Airways, 39

You might say Doug McGraw is a high flier in corporate communications. In his short time at JetBlue, McGraw has managed countless issues, from 30-inch snowstorms, to an onboard incident with Ivanka Trump, and the removal of a short-shorts wearing burlesque dancer. Along the way, he’s rewritten JetBlue’s crisis protocols and has become a key player in its incident command center.

When he joined the company in 2014, its cofounder was retiring, and the airline had just announced a plan to increase revenue by adding seats and bag fees. McGraw’s challenge was to show consumers that JetBlue could balance shareholder needs while still living its mission "to bring humanity back to air travel."

McGraw scooped the industry with the launch of the historic first flight between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Santa Clara, Cuba. His efforts to promote Mint, the company’s business class, delivered a major story without any paid advertising. On JetBlue’s increased seat density, he flipped the conversation from criticism to what the Huffington Post called "the cabin of your dreams."

He asserted the airline’s tech profile with the launch of JetBlue Technology Ventures and numerous innovations, including inflight Apple Pay and Amazon streaming. In the 24/7, fast-paced world of airline communications, where no action goes unnoticed and the margin for error is narrow, McGraw has built a reputation as a thoughtful leader who knows how to deftly multitask at 300 mph.

The go-to counselor for JetBlue’s most difficult and sensitive challenges, McGraw has created a new integrated planning process and developed training to ensure the corporate comms team is creating thoughtful programs that span media relations, social media, and internal comms — a crucial effort as the company matures and seeks to balance its customer, employee, and shareholder audiences.

He has become a trusted adviser to the company’s leadership team, helping it think through tough issues and prepare for communications opportunities. Now managing frontline crewmember communications, he has tripled his team to 16.

  • At the age of 31, McGraw became the youngest partner ever at FleishmanHillard, and he is one of the youngest directors at JetBlue.
  • He played a lead role in JetBlue’s groundbreaking Fly Babies and Reach Across the Aisle campaigns, which won two PRWeek Awards.
  • McGraw serves on the airline’s community crisis response team, whose efforts to fly police officers into New York City for the funerals of two NYPD officers killed in duty received national attention.

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