Executive Rewind: You’ve Got to Know Your Target Audiences

Should an Airline Executive Boast About Boosting Fares?


Yes, if he’s talking to the right audience

Before merging with Southwest Airlines, AirTran Airways was a leading low cost carrier serving nearly 60 markets in North America. It was one of the few airlines that has managed to rebound and thrive after 9-11 and the resulting economic repercussions.

Like all airlines, AirTran had to deal with one huge variable: the rising cost of fuel. So, when then-CEO Joe Leonard co-hosted an hour of CNBC’s SqawkBox in the Fall of 2005, that expense line item was a major part of his agenda.

In preparation for his appearance Leonard first defined his target audiences. Clearly, Wall Street’s myriad of professionals and followers, and airline industry analysts presented a major opportunity for messages that could positively impact AirTran’s stock price.

Leonard had two important messages he needed to get across to these viewers. First, AirTran’s passenger load was up, and they had been raising fares. Wall Street loves hearing that. But Leonard had another, perhaps more subtle message, as well, for those analysts who offer quarterly projection expectations for his airline: while our revenues and profits are up, don’t get too far ahead of us because of those variable fuel prices and their significant impact on the bottom line. In other words, this is a major cost we have little control over that has dramatic impact on our financials.

As a consumer, you no doubt are not excited about paying higher prices. And you certainly wouldn’t greet increased fares as good news. So, in a different news environment that primarily reaches existing and prospective AirTran customers, the issue of higher fares would have to be couched differently, as a direct result of escalating oil prices. It’s fair to assume that customers who are paying more for their gasoline could relate to AirTran’s challenges and the impact on ticket prices.

In short, it’s the same overall message, but how you say it is driven very much by who the target audiences you’re talking to.

(Note: in the interest of transparency, AirTran AirWays has been a client of The Media Trainers® for more than a decade and The Media Trainers® helped prepare Joe Leonard for his CNBC appearance.)

The Media Trainers® Re–winder Reminder:

  • Before you start planning your messages for a news interview, make sure you know who your potential audiences are. Then, narrow them down to priority audience targets.
  • The most desirable target audiences typically are groups, or individuals, who can help you meet your business goals.
  • Once you know who(m) you’re talking to, then you’ll know what you want to say and how to say it.

The Media Trainers®, LLC, has a Tough Questions eBook on our Web site that you can download free for easy reference.

The Media Trainers®

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Marietta, GA 30067



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