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A communication plan is simply a written statement that outlines communication goals, offering approaches to achieving success and providing results that will lead to positive outcomes. Many organizations adopt a strategy, which integrates communication, public education, and research to emphasize that information is a key element of the success of a business. The key focus for every organization, like Etihad Airways, is to maximize on communication opportunities. Essentially, the company should focus on developing a strategic communication plan to support a detailed organizational strategy. This paper seeks to review communication activities of Etihad Airways and prove their effectiveness.
Etihad Airways was established in July 2003 by the Royal (Amir) decree, and it officially commenced its operations in November 2003, becoming one of the fastest growing airlines in the history of commercial aviation. The name Etihad originates from the Arabic word “union”. The company’s head office is situated in Khalifa near Abu Dhabi. The airline is the national carrier of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the second largest one of the United Arab Emirates. It operates more than 1,000 flights per week to 102 passengers and delivers cargo to sixty countries and six continents. In addition to its core business of passenger transportation, Etihad Airways operates holiday tour arrangements, cargo handling facilities, flight-catering services and airport services.
Communication Activities Review
Since Etihad Airways is a well-known brand in the United Arab Emirates and Europe, it is possible to increase its awareness by a significant percentage globally. The main aim of the organization is to maintain its brand preference among consumers. Although Etihad is the leader in the aviation industry in the UAE alongside the Emirates Airline, it does not mean that it will maintain that position in the unseen future unless the organization strategically positions itself. Therefore, the company has to reinforce its brand penetration targeting at a larger audience than the current one. Etihad’s Media Centre is a rich data source for members of the media who are looking for information on the company (Etihad Airways, 2015). It consists of data on the firm’s corporate profile, biographies of its executives, press releases in English and foreign languages, and images of the company’s events. Communication activities of Etihad can be divided into three segments, which include digital marketing, social media networking and social media advertising, and sponsorship (“Marketing strategy of Etihad Airways,” 2015).
Digital marketing involves the use of digital channels to market a brand. Many marketers describe it as the future revolution of marketing. It enables the organization to have a two-way dialogue with each of its clients. Etihad’s communication purpose is to become successful in the future by growing, working together, giving, and ensuring that they remain green. Etihad Airways uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google +, and its webpage to offer potential clients direct travel services within ten minutes. It has more than 600,000 followers on Facebook, over 40,000 Twitter followers and approximately 85,000 professionals on LinkedIn (Etihad Airways, 2013).
The airline has developed the “Etihad Mapped out Service” and four contact centers, which handle over 2.6 million guest calls in about thirty-seven markets in fourteen languages. It enables its users to organize meetings, display geographical connections, and share contacts with other travelers. The firm sponsors such sports as football, cricket and golf. Etihad associates itself with quite a number of sports events, and it reflects on the brand being a catalyst of innovations and changes. In football, the airline has sponsored Manchester City, Melbourne football club and Al Ain football club’s airline partner (Etihad Airways, 2012). In cricket, it has supported the English and Mumbai cricket teams. The company has also sponsored the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships and the Gaelic Athletic Association, as well as the Sport Australia Hall of Fame among others.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Etihad recognizes that it has a moral duty to ensure that the company takes actions that will make this world a better place for the next generation. The firm has achieved great success in the water saving campaign, “Print Smart Strategy” and the alternative fuel program. The main social activities of Etihad Airways include reducing the carbon footprint and carbon emissions from jet fuel, waste recycling, which has led to a reduction in the amount of paper and cardboard collected for recycling, and finally the campaign for the responsible disposal of electronic waste (Cole, 2013).
Investor Relations and Internal Communication
Because of its effective corporate communication strategy, Etihad Airways works with about 20,000 employees and corporate investors based in Abu Dhabi and partner states. The company has adopted a vertical communication style, whereby strategies are developed at the executive level, implemented at the management level, and enforced at the subordinate level. Internal communication is managed by the Etihad’s communication department, which consists of a corporate communication manager monitoring the PR agency network, media relations, and publicity. It also includes the HR communication manager, who implements rules and programs, as well as develops a communication calendar for various projects and manages an employee feedback. The PR manager controls leadership communication activities between the company and its investors. The multimedia and publications editor is responsible for press releases, brochures and annual reports.
The company provides investors with reports, event information, and links to additional data, which help them make payments or sell decisions. The company offers the executive the first priority every time sporting events arise, such as golf tournaments and premier leagues.
The company has an emergency response communication program, which ensures timely communication through social media platforms in the form of news updates in case of a crisis avoid confusion and panic. The first channel of communication in case of flight delays, terror attacks, or flight errors is the social media before any press release is issued to the public. The effectiveness of Etihad Airways depends on the company’s ability to have a continuous and personalized two-way communication with its consumers using digital channels (Cole, 2013). The performance of the firm has improved steadily over the years. It is attributable to the ability of the company to use digital channels, social media marketing and advertising to measure and report its performance in the prescribed format.
One of the major strengths of Etihad’s communication strategies is their excellent IT infrastructure consisting of the Sabre Sonic technology, which provides a single global platform for over forty control systems. SITA is another communication software, which comes with an iKnow system that enables cabin managers to gain access to information relating to online flight connections between Etihad and other airlines equity partners. The company enjoys economies of scale due to its large passenger network with forty-seven codeshare agreements (Cole, 2013).
The airline’s major weakness is the inability to handle crises effectively due to a gap in the synchronization of information during such incidents. For instance, during fog, delays caused travelers to be stranded for about half a day without information or food. Although the social media team responded to queries, the company did not provide clear information, and it increased travelers’ frustration (Balakrishnan, Michael, Moonesar, & Rogmans, 2012).
The company’s communication strategy is at risk due to inadequate policies set up by the UAE that monitor and evaluate communication processes. Although the firm has its own set of policies, external sources can infiltrate or breach its communication channel, and it may lead to damages (Balakrishnan et al., 2012).
The opportunity that faces this airline is the rapid growth and development of technology in the aviation industry. Etihad has a great opportunity of attracting tech-loving customers through innovations. The company can develop a mobile application for easy access to its online services (Balakrishnan et al., 2012).
Corporate Communication Plan and Recommendations
Although Etihad Airways is a market leader in aviation, its communication plan is not fully effective. The company is keen on the ability to have a positive impact on stakeholders and the community with little focus on global economic problems. Etihad’s communication strategy requires meaningful changes oriented at all stakeholders with a positive outlook on the community where the firm operates. the communication plan should be based on strengthening a stakeholder involvement through regular consultations with the chief executive officer, chief operations officer, chief strategy and planning officer, and the chief people and performance officer.
The target of the company should be to increase its brand awareness among the potential customers. It can be implemented through advertisements, whereby the Etihad brand can be applied to partner airlines by repainting aircrafts with the company’s logo, as well as introducing Etihad staff uniforms in subsidiaries and consistent in-flight products across all partner airlines. The youth can be appealed to by means of a pool strategy, such as the use of celebrities, entertainment and arts sponsorship. Generally, Etihad Airways should adopt an intense advertising campaign through the social media to diffuse into European markets, because this is where the target market can be easily located.
The company can boost its crisis communication by establishing a hashtag (#) to track online conversations about a certain crisis or event and correct major facts as quickly as possible (Samra, 2014). It will help in addressing speculations that may arise in the course of a tragic event and any rumors of terrorism, pilot errors, or major defects. The company can come up with crisis control measures to help grieving families first by giving them a briefing on the complexity of a situation before approaching the media and protecting them from a media onslaught.
Developing a communication plan can be very difficult, but for any communication to work effectively, one needs to define its objectives continuously. Etihad Airways has dedicated its resources to the development and implementation of appropriate communication strategies. Digital communication has boosted the airlines advertising reputation, community management and outreach, as well as strategic planning. Though social media, the company can participate in innovative campaigns and major projects such as the twentieth petroleum conference and career fair. The airline has been able to secure as a living agency providing solutions to social media issues by understanding the latest trends to offer clients the best digital investments. Etihad has built an enviable brand, managing relationships through social monitoring and partnerships, which support its commercial activities. Retrospectively, it should evaluate its communication activities on a regular basis. Etihad’s communication purpose is to become successful in the future by growing, cooperating, and ensuring that they remain environmentally friendly.
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