Replacing Radar

Media Relations Campaign

Media Relations Campaign

 

Replacing Radar: Raytheon Leverages Public Relations to Help Reduce Airport Delays and Increase Safety

  • Developed PR Strategy

  • Led all aspects of execution

  • Won Raytheon-wide award for Best Strategic Communications Program

Challenge

The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it would be awarding a contract potentially worth $2 billion to upgrade the nation’s airspace from its existing radar-based air traffic control systems to a GPS-based system known as the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast, or ADS-B. Unlike many air traffic management contracts, ADS-B brought a sense of urgency and the potential to connect with ordinary travelers. 

To address the problem, the FAA spent more than 10 years researching and investing in a solution that would migrate the airspace to ADS-B but use two different systems, one for commercial aircraft and another for private pilots. Both systems would be connected by a third, bridging, technology.


The FAA selected three vendors – Lockheed Martin, ITT and Raytheon Co. to submit bids for the contract and challenged them to bring the technology and innovation of the private sector to address the challenges. Early on, Lockheed Martin was considered the team to beat by many industry experts because they were incumbents on many of the FAA programs that would form the basis of an ADS-B solution. News reports commonly ranked the odds of winning as Lockheed Martin, ITT, and then Raytheon. To have a chance at success, Raytheon chose a nontraditional approach that would consolidate the entire solution in one system rather than two. 


PR Response

Strategies

  • Reframe ADS-B issues

  • Raytheon’s solution is ultimately best for the country, safer and more efficient

  • FAA’s openness to innovation can save taxpayer dollars and increase safety dramatically

  • Leverage business media to educate FAA decision makers about both the benefits of and the ground swell of industry support for Raytheon’s innovative ADS-B solution.

  • Position Raytheon as a thought leader and innovator on the topic of air traffic control technology.


Execution

Media Education

In early 2007, Raytheon set out to educate reporters about the company’s differentiators. In one-on-one briefings, the communications team highlighted Raytheon’s ability to reduce costs and improve coverage faster than the other competitors. The initial education effort targeted the trade publications and yielded a sweep of stories, including a feature story in Avionics Magazine headlined, “A Single Frequency Solution for ADS-B.” In addition, a story in the highly influential Jane’s Magazine said that, “Raytheon's approach was both audacious and startling.” The second phase targeted business reporters in Washington, D.C., and yielded a coveted feature in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Unusual FAA Bid Stirs Turbulence – Raytheon’s Rivals Grumble Over Pitch for Air-Traffic-Control Contract.”

The Industry Roundtable

With just three months to implement a campaign and a budget of approximately $80,000, the Raytheon ADS-B team held an industry roundtable. In it, subject matter experts who represent different perspectives helped reporters understand ADS-B technology, the benefits to the user community, and the issues surrounding successful execution in the US.  Naturally, Raytheon has its own viewpoint but the briefing was more of an informational pitch and not a sales pitch.   

The panelists included some of the industry’s most prominent voices including Jane Garvey (former FAA chairman); Jim May (president of the Air Transport Association); Andy Zogg (Raytheon); Charlie Keegan (Raytheon); Captain Bart Roberts (Director of Operations at American Airlines); and Roderick Mackenzie of XM Satellite Radio.

The roundtable attracted a highly influential audience of reporters from the Associated Press, Avionics Magazine, Bloomberg, ForbesNew York Times, Reuters, Washington Post and Washington Times and yielded stories that helped position Raytheon as a thought leader on the topic.

Media Outreach

The historic airline delays of the summer of 2007 were used as a tool for the Raytheon ADS-B communications program. Since the move to ADS-B will help to alleviate some of the issues contributing to delays, Raytheon had the opportunity to contribute to the discussion on addressing the challenges. The team worked used Raytheon spokespersons as experts who could discuss the solutions to today’s airline delays.

Via media tours, a Zogby International poll and proactive media outreach, Charlie Keegan of Raytheon spoke with or was solicited by numerous media outlets in targeted cities and regions with major airline hubs. Media interview requests ran the gamut from The Dallas Morning News to WFAA-TV in Dallas to Fox Morning News in Denver to The Boston Globe to ABC World News Tonight.

Evaluation of Success

Entering the three-month evaluation period prior to the awarding of the FAA contract, Raytheon was the least visible and understood of the bidding contractors. 

However, during this short campaign, Raytheon generated more coverage than its competitors, according to analysis conducted by KDPaine & Partners LLC. Raytheon generated exclusive coverage of its ADS-B bid on ABC News in Dallas and WBZ in Boston. Raytheon generated more than 1.9 million opportunities for key audiences to see the company in the context of ADS-B in the six weeks prior to the FAA’s decision alone, more than 10% more than its competitors.

Perhaps most importantly, Raytheon had the highest share of highly visible coverage (56%) and Raytheon held a 90% share of positive coverage among its competitors.

In the end, ITT was selected because the FAA decided it was the best technical solution. However, the long-term fruits of this campaign have already been visible. As a result of media coverage, Raytheon was immediately contacted to be on the Joint Program Development Office’s Airspace Systems Working Group and a Raytheon executive was elected the industry co-chair. This was a clear indication that Raytheon is viewed as a thought leader in airspace management issues.

In addition, Raytheon executive and key ADS-B media spokesperson Charlie Keegan was contacted to support the Engineering Council as a board member who will set guidance and policy recommendations for the aviation industry and next generation air traffic control systems.

In short, the communications campaign was designed to build a reputation for Raytheon as both an innovator and a thought leader in commercial aviation. By the end of the campaign, Raytheon’s CEO remarked that it seemed that he could not go to Washington without hearing about Raytheon and ADS-B. Judging by the media metrics and response from key industry luminaries, the Raytheon ADS-B communications program will continue to reap rewards for some time to come.