CHICAGO: United Airlines has promoted Nicole Carriere to the newly created role of MD of consumer public relations.
Carriere, who has served as United’s director of consumer PR since February 2020, was promoted on Friday. She is reporting to Steven Restivo, VP of global communications, and oversees a team of 10 people.
Carriere will lead comms for United Airlines’ brand, network planning, technology, customer experience product and marketing and loyalty. Her team, which also oversees international communications for the Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions, is focused on building positive emotional connections between travelers and the airline. Carriere’s promotion also came on the heels of United’s consumer-facing ad campaign, which launched in May, called Good Leads the Way.
Carriere said the role is an expansion of her previous duties to include global responsibilities on top of U.S. work for its network planning team, loyalty, customer experience and marketing.
Although Carriere’s role is newly created, she is taking on many of the same day-to-day responsibilities held by Karen Twigg May, who served as United’s MD of media relations before joining healthcare company Abbott in February as senior director of public affairs.
After Twigg May left, “[United] took a look at what the comms team should look like and what our needs will be as we pivot to this new place coming out of the pandemic,” said Carriere.
The company changed the name of the function from “media relations” to “consumer PR” to ensure it is focused on commitment to customers and “emerging from the crisis where the customer is at the center of everything we do,” she explained.
“It is looking at how we show up for our customers and finding ways to tell those stories through earned media,” Carriere said. “It is all of the ways we are creating a customer-centric airline.”
Regional comms staffers whose work is corporate-focused used to report to Twigg May but now report to Leslie Scott, MD of global response and corporate communications. Scott’s function is focused on crisis comms and corporate stories.
“These changes were designed to ensure the corporate communicators were falling under the right leader and the consumer-focused group had the flexibility to ladder up to a single leader as well,” said Carriere.
The changes were put into place shortly after Twigg May left. Carriere has served as interim MD of consumer PR since then.
The shift in focus has also changed the airline’s agency relationships. United has been working on a project basis with Ketchum since November 2021, supporting all external communications. After the change, the Omnicom Group agency’s work has focused on consumer PR, said Carriere.
“They have been supporting us with corporate announcements, like they helped to promote our Aviate [pilot career-development] program and to promote travel for the holidays,” she said. “With this move, they will zero in on the consumer side.”
Before joining United, Carriere was executive director of PR for car-shopping technology company Edmunds and senior manager of PR for Autotrader U.S. She has also worked at The Home Depot, General Motors and Weber Shandwick.
In Q2, United Airlines’ unit revenue surged 24% over 2019, while unit costs, excluding fuel, rose 17% over the April-June period of three years ago. The company’s total revenue in the quarter was $12.1 billion, slightly missing analyst estimates.