by John Stewart
Heathrow Airport must be delighted with last night’s Question Time. Never mind the content. Admire the view. Set in a gleaming new Terminal 2. We are the UK’s airport of the future. The only possible location for a new runway.
It is all part of Heathrow’s new PR strategy. The arguments haven’t changed since the Government dropped plans for a 3rd runway in 2010. As Joey Barton said on Question Time last night: “we haven’t suddenly got silent planes.” The economic and environmental arguments are much the same as four years ago.
What has changed is Heathrow’s PR. Rocked by its failure to get a new runway last time round, the company regrouped, rethought its strategy and revitalised its PR.
- It got a new name. No longer the untrustworthy BAA who kept breaking its promises to residents….and sent all the luggage to Rome on the opening day of Terminal 5.
- It has embraced of residents over the politically toxic issue of noise
- It has engaged in early discussions with local authorities and MPs about the economic benefits of expansion
- It has carefully commissioned polls to give the impression that there is more support for a third runway than previously thought
- It set up of Back Heathrow to concentrate on the negative campaigning
No question Heathrow has upped its game since last time and setting the opponents of a 3rd runway a new challenge.
And then there are the adverts, the billboards and the TV programmes: Question Time last night and last year a week-long, gushing series from the BBC on the workings of the airport.
So it doesn’t lose momentum, here are some suggestions what Heathrow can do next:
- John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s new CEO, guest edits the Today Programme
- Heathrow sponsors the Manchester trams for the duration of the Conservative Party Conference in return for free branding on the vehicles
- · Heathrow pledges to pay for the restoration of the old pier in Brighton during Labour’s Conference – to be opened concurrently with a 3rd runway in 2026.
- An offer that Terminal 6, if given the go-ahead, will host free of charge key cultural events such as the X Factor, with Piers Morgan, given his performance on Question Time last night, guaranteed a place on the judging panel
Just a few suggestions to help out! And to emphasise that, for all the glitz and glamour of its PR, the basic arguments haven’t changed. Arguments that were rejected last time round. It is that rejection – and the desperation to succeed against the odds this time – that is driving Heathrow to be the accommodating host of Question Time. It is a strategy conceived in defeat rather than one that is confident of victory.
The BBC documentary on British Airways starts (3 parts) next week. A review of it here (Guardian). And the BBC’s promotional page about it here. This says of it: “This three-part series will capture the immense complexities of a business that powers the nation and will offer a unique insight into British Airways’ future.””
Powering the nation, indeed?