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How PR Played Key Role in Tampa Airport Gaining Approval for Billion-Dollar Master Plan

April 28, 2014

20140416_131640In case you missed the April 16 program, “How PR Played Key Role in Tampa Airport Gaining Approval for Billion-Dollar Master Plan,” here are some main takeaways from the event.

Do the right thing
As previous marketing executive for the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Joe Lopano, CEO for Tampa International Airport learned early that success is mostly driven by “doing what’s right.” He recited this message constantly throughout his presentation – noting how he did things rather than what he did. Lopano noted that starting with a constrained attitude is what gets others into trouble.

He referred to George Bean, the founder of TIA and how he started off with a $40 million budget to originally build the airport and ended up with a final cost of $82 million. “Spending money to drive business is right,” Lopano said. “You gotta do what’s right. We wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t.”

Throughout the presentation, Lopano also mentioned the importance of doing what’s right for the community.

“When we proposed the $943 million master plan for phase one, we had everyone’s support,” Lopano said. “There’s a reason for that. We brought in the Department of Transportation at the beginning of the project.”

To continue involving the community, the airport supports robust social media platforms. “We have a very interactive Facebook page,” said Janet Zink, director of communications for the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. “Although much of the interaction is by our customers, we also have a following in the community.”

Always be transparent with the media
As Lopano addressed the program’s nearly 50 attendees, he touched on a subject important to PR practitioners at all levels of their careers – media transparency. Following his takeover of the airport, Lopano reflected on how he had to get used to navigating a barrage of media for press conferences, especially when things don’t go as originally planned.
Lopano referenced an example from last summer when the airport postponed its scheduled decision to award the contract for its multimillion dollar design-build. At a press conference following the postponement, Lopano was quoted as saying, “We goofed.” Using this example, he advised to “Admit to messing up, but say how you’re going to fix it.”

It doesn’t happen overnight
Going back to his zest to do what’s right, Lopano mentioned that sometimes it comes at a different kind of cost, time. “Go back to the drawing board and make believe you don’t care about money,” Lopano said. To him, he believes that if a design works but would cost more, he’d take the extra time to go to the airlines to raise the needed funds in order to make it happen.
Lopano also mentioned the airport’s plans for including more local concepts; again, not a time-saving route, but the right route. The new concepts, planned to reflect the spirit of Tampa Bay, will combine traditional national brands with a local sense of place.

To learn more about this event and upcoming plans for Tampa International Airport, check out an article posted in the Tampa Bay Business Journal featuring Lopano and the PRSA event. Also, be sure to check out more upcoming PRSA events.

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