By Caroline O’Reilly
Wednesday afternoon’s twin sessions of the Practical PR Forum and Media Training with CNN offered conference attendees a veritable boot camp of all things communications, but particularly those on-the-spot, spur-of-the-moment situations that every airport media contact inevitably confronts. Both sessions boasted a strong mix of panelists and audience members engaged in dynamic dialogue, with just as many questions posed as there were anecdotes and examples shared of how airports across the U.S. and Canada have maintained grace under pressure in times of various crises.
Moderated by Orlando International’s Carolyn Fennell and Ottawa International’s Krista Kealey, the PR forum proved an ideal prelude to the latter media-training session. Discussion traveled across a spectrum of topics, from how to keep affected stakeholders in the loop on large-scale, multi-year construction projects, to how to decide if and when to grant outside video and film crews access and to which areas and assets of an airport. Miami International’s Greg Chin, whose airport just happens to be the star of “Airport 24/7: Miami” on the Travel Channel, shared a valuable overview (in addition to a snazzy highlight reel) on the logistics that guide the complexity of producing the popular series, from coordinating with federal authorities in Washington, D.C., and ensuring that legal and regulatory clearances are met, to convincing airlines that service MIA to agree to be part of the filming.
Television then truly took the helm during the media training session, courtesy of CNN Airport’s Alison Hashimoto and Fennell, whose resume includes production for “World News Tonight” on ABC. They were joined by the dynamic Nadia Bilchik, a CNN freelance anchor and Atlanta-based media trainer. Earlier in the week, a mock CNN camera crew intercepted conference attendees and asked them a few questions that often resemble the ambush-style interrogations airport media personnel often field during instances of breaking news or investigative pursuits. During the Wednesday session, several of these responses were played and then critiqued. The fact that the majority of the recommendations for improvement made by Bilchik, who readily established a direct and honest rapport with attendees, focused on slight stylistic suggestions indicated that the messages of North America’s airports continued to be delivered by exceptionally talented spokespersons.