Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking and communications channels continue to command an increasing amount of mind share among marketing and communications pros. And justifiably so. These informal communication channels are uniquely suited to convey time-sensitive operational and promotional messaging and to increase transparency by facilitating public conversations.
Sometimes, however, your message won't fit into 140 characters, so today we salute two "long form" communication channels which engage their audiences and reinforce their brands:
United's "From the Flight Deck" audio on Channel 9
United endears itself to aviation geeks and passenger pilots by routinely carrying the radio chatter from the cockpit on Channel 9 of their in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems. And Channel 9 has some die-hard fans; passengers go so far as to track the availability of the channel (which is operated at the captain's discretion) on a dedicated thread on the FlyerTalk discussion forums.
The Wall Street Journal's Scott McCartney profiled this service in 2008, and correctly highlighted its potential downsides, such as causing passenger angst when flight crews miss radio calls. But savvy listeners understand that's part of life in the analog world of air traffic control—and just as easily heard on the ground with a hand-held radio or a LiveATC.net stream.
It's hard to demonstrate that United wins many customers due to Channel 9, but that's the case with many brand-building experiences. At least the price is right, and its availability clearly resonates with many passengers. One positive sign for its longevity: Channel 9 is included in United's just-launched Zune-branded IFE.
Update: Monday, August 30, 2010
With the United-Continental merger all but a done deal, blogger Jon Ostrower (@FlightBlogger) has launched an informal Twittter campaign to save Channel 9 using the #SaveCh9 hashtag. We hope this campaign fares better than #SaveTheTulip's influence on the new fleet livery.
Delta's Flight Operations Weekly Update podcast
Each week, Captain Steve Dickson, Delta's Senior Vice President of Flight Operations, records a brief message to update flight crews on a handful of timely issues. While some topics are clearly inside baseball, such as a recent reminder of changes to the bid process, others are of more general interest, such as a discussion of Delta's fleet-wide efforts to minimize the use of fuel-thirsty APUs.
Over the past months, these weekly updates have provided fascinating insight into the operational details of merging two operations: "Delta North" and "Delta South", as Capt. Dickson consistently refers to the legacy Northwest and Delta fleets. With its "adopt-and-go" process behind it, Dickson's team has turned its attention to process improvement and streamlining. Being able to listen in to this process is a rare treat.
To their great credit, Delta management releases an appropriately edited version for public consumption, available as a free podcast subscription from Apple's iTunes Music Store or from Delta's DALpilot.com portal.