Whether as a press release or Facebook post, you are responsible for representing the airport in a clear, professional manner. But when each platform requires a different tone and amount of information, things can get tricky. Here are a few tips that will help you excel at communicating.
Do you refer to your airport as “the airport” or “the Airport”? Is today December 15 or Dec. 15? Do you have hourlong meetings or hour-long meetings? In order to craft your messages in a consistent manner, you need a framework that applies across all platforms. You need a house style.
A house style is a set of rules for writing and grammar. The foundation of your house style should come from an established style guide. There are several to choose from—Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook are the most common—and all offer the same basic rules. The differences lie in smaller details, like using a serial comma (“terminal, runway, and parking lot” versus “terminal, runway and parking lot”). Find one that your team is most comfortable with and then add the rules that are specific to your airport. Decide if you’re “the airport” or “the Airport,” add the entry into your style guide, and then stick with it every time you write on behalf of your organization. Standardizing your grammar is the first step in keeping your voice the same across different platforms.
Watch Your Tone
Now that you have a house style, your messages will be more uniform. But that doesn’t mean you should share the same thing in the same way across the airport’s different communications channels. There’s a spectrum of formality when writing for public agencies. Generally speaking, the shorter the content, the more informal you can be. Social media is the least formal space and the messaging opportunities are shorter. This means you’ll have to be more creative in distilling your message to fit in a tweet. An airport blog can elaborate on a social post or provide an informal opportunity to expand on a subject, but isn’t the medium to roll out official stories. Press releases are longer and speak directly to journalists; this is a formal space that still allows for persuasive copy that encourages reporters to cover your news. And even though it’s in the digital space, your official airport website is designed to share detailed information, including airport plans and official policies, and thus allows for the least amount of personality. So while you’d never use a #hashtag on your website, you would absolutely use one on Twitter to help link your news to a larger story or theme. Changing your tone on different platforms helps you communicate with different audiences and keeps your story fresher for people who may follow you on multiple channels.
Ask the Experts
Often a public information officer will have to tell a story that is news to her as well. Your airport may be rolling out a new sustainability program or has just won a grant to replace airfield lighting. It’s your job to communicate the news in a compelling way, but utilize the subject matter expert to be sure you’re getting the facts right and using the necessary jargon correctly. Don’t be afraid to call the owner of the project to ask for details when writing your press release. Conduct a brief in-house interview with the subject matter experts and learn specifics about the project as well as how it fits into the larger airport picture. It can be intimidating at first to ask the CFO how the grant process works, but they’ll be happy to share their knowledge with you and the public—and you’ll be happy to know that your information is correct before sharing.
By keeping your grammar consistent, changing your tone for different channels, and relying on expert knowledge, you’ll be able to tackle any writing project that comes your way.