Construction Outreach and terminal opening events

San diego international airport

San Diego International Airport Construction outreach and terminal opening events


April, 2013

San Diego, CA


Graphic Design
Event Management
Public Relations


San Diego International Airport is the busiest single-runway airport in the nation, and in 2009, the Airport Authority (Authority) was preparing to start construction on the largest project in the airport’s history. Called “The Green Build,” the $1 billion project would add a number of improvements, including 10 new gates, a dual-level roadway, new dining and shopping options and more security lanes. However, construction meant that inconveniences were in store for passengers, including the relocation of 1,200 parking spaces, removal of pedestrian bridges and roadway detours. The airport’s high passenger satisfaction ratings were at risk, and passenger routines would be disrupted. To prepare for this communications challenge, the Authority launched a four-year (2009 – 2013) community relations program. Katie Franco served as the Authority’s spokesperson for the Green Build, and Cheryl Brown led the extensive marketing efforts.



To shape the community relations program, the airport looked at primary research from 405 in-person interviews conducted during the project approval process, which found that: 1) awareness of plans to improve the airport was low; 2) the public overwhelmingly supported airport improvements when provided with the benefits; and 3) people want to be kept informed about the plans.

To reach as many as possible within a limited budget, the team knew that its outreach campaign needed to target key influential stakeholder groups and media, which would reach more people cost effectively. Business and community leaders and elected officials would also help amplify the program messages for free.



Leverage partnerships with business, tourism, and community organizations to cost-effectively broaden communication efforts and amplify our messages for free; sustain interest in (and support for) The Green Build among elected officials, business and community leaders, media, and the public throughout construction; focus on practical improvements that will reflect an airport worthy of the self-described “America’s Finest City”; create anticipation that the outcomes will noticeably improve the traveler’s experience; and utilize earned media, as well as face-to-face communication, to reach target audiences.



The communications team developed a campaign targeting key audiences through tactics including: email construction alert system; construction hotline and dedicated email; media relations (news releases, media briefings and tours); social media (Facebook, Twitter); SMS text program – at the time, a highly innovative tactic for a public agency; collateral materials including fact sheets, Frequently Asked Questions and flyer for airport neighbors with business reply card to sign up for e-alerts; project-specific website; printed newsletter distributed to more than 7,500 opinion leaders; speakers bureau and one-on-one briefings and tours for elected officials.

Outreach events included groundbreaking and topping-out construction ceremonies, media and elected official site tours, and a series of opening events that included public tours, an 800-person VIP gala, and a well-attended ribbon cutting ceremony.



The team exceeded all of its goals for the four-year campaign:

  1. Customer satisfaction remained high, averaging an impressive 85% over the four-year program (just 3 points lower than the airport’s all-time high of 88%), versus a goal of 75%
  2. Awareness of construction increased substantially:
  • Email alert subscribers increased by 648% in the first year of construction, eclipsing goal of 50%, and maintained that level through completion
  • Traffic to the Green Build webpage increased from 3,000 visits in 2009 to more than 40,000 in 2010, an increase of 1,279%, versus a goal of 25%. Visits remained in the 30,000 range throughout construction, surpassing expectations
  • Facebook fans increased by an average of 296%, versus goal of 50% annually
  • Twitter followers increased by an average of 82%, versus goal of 50% annually
  1. Secured 873 media placements, significantly exceeding goal of 50 each year by 437% (with 482 in 2013 alone)
  • Media coverage was 99% positive/balanced versus a goal of 75%

The PR campaign came in $583,137 under budget at $2,606,998 ($651,750/year). The team received kudos from the Authority leadership for its outreach efforts and the significant community support generated for the project. On top of those results, the team was able to communicate that—for once—a public project was completed on time and $45 million under budget, achieving the Authority’s business goal. The Green Build opened to great fanfare, and the overall project was a massive success.

More projects