Winner – British Airways
Faced with the worst crisis in its history, British Airways quickly developed an external communications strategy with aims including defending the airline's reputation and the difficult decisions it was making such as restructuring; reassuring customers and stakeholders that it was being responsive and responsible; and influencing decision-makers and government to help promote the argument for a safe restart of travel.
Its communications team worked with international colleagues in New York, Delhi and Beijing to ensure it maintained a 24/7 media service; was active in challenging and extinguishing an average of 29 inaccurate stories each month; offered media access to hangars, high-ranking pilots and other exclusive content; and dovetailed seamlessly with its colleague communications team.
It also hosted video roundtables with BA’s chief executive for journalists to influence policy change through media, partnered organisations from the Foreign Office to American Airlines to amplify messages, and recruited new social media colleagues to ensure greater engagement.
The year culminated in a range of activity on 17 May 2021 to mark the return of international travel, including press trips to Portugal for almost all major UK media and a joint LinkedIn Live event with Heathrow. That was the only occasion during the year when the airline used paid external support, a fact that only highlights the team’s success getting results with stretched resources – due to factors such as furloughing and restructuring – across the year.
In total, 7,331 pieces of coverage of BA appeared in UK media last year, with 22 per cent being proactively generated. In May 2020, the airline’s favourable content score in UK media was 32 per cent, but it rose steadily and by April 2021 hit a record high of 90 per cent.
The judges said
With reduced budget and staff, and against the most difficult backdrop, the team delivered outstanding results to defend and promote the BA brand, with impressive cost-effectiveness.
Highly commended – eBay
Tactics including waiving listing and selling fees, working with government to deliver PPE to health and care providers, charity auctions and cracking down on pandemic-related profiteering paid dividends for eBay last year, bagging the platform an uplift in both business registrations and public brand perceptions.