Meet my summer internship.

When crafting a message on behalf of a company, any public relations professional knows to consistently reflect the company’s beliefs and values. But what happens when one entity owns several different facilities, each with different messages? Meet my summer internship.

The Delaware River and Bay Authority, a bi-state governmental agency, owns and operates the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the Cape May- Lewes Ferry, and the Delaware City – Salem Ferry Crossing. Since that is not enough to manage, the DRBA also operates several airports including New Castle, Civil Terminal and Delaware Airpark in Delaware, and the Cape May and Millville airports in New Jersey. Bottom line, the DRBA operates several transportation agencies.

My very first day, I was managing social media for the Wilmington/New Castle County airport.  With the recent addition of a commercial airline service, Frontier Airlines, the airport was no longer considered a “business airport.” Their message changed. Families and friends could now fly non-stop out of Wilmington, DE to destination spots including, Tampa, Orlando, Denver, Houston and Chicago.  But that wasn’t the only benefit.  Now, with this new airline service, the small state of Delaware has been put on the airline map.  After meeting with the airport’s marketing director, I crafted a ten day social media campaign to attract people across the country to fly TO Delaware instead of out.  Yes, everyone wants a trip to Orlando, but we cannot forget about Delaware’s special attractions. Tax free shopping? You cannot beat that.

The ten day social media campaign counted down the days until people in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Tampa and Orlando could book their vacation to Delaware.  The campaign highlighted 10 different Delaware/Philadelphia regional events and attractions.   I finally saw the success of social media.  Our likes on Facebook tripled within the first 6 days.  Our Twitter followers doubled.  The hype about the Wilmington airport and Delaware was buzzing.

By June 26th the message had transformed.  The Wilmington airport hosted a press event highlighting the kick-off of Frontier Airlines’ service beginning on July 1.  Their social media presence exploded and every newspaper in the Delaware region was writing about Frontier Airlines and the Wilmington airport.

Another amazing opportunity I had this summer was creating the Cape May-Lewes Ferry’s first ever digital customer survey. It was a moment in history for the Ferry’s marketing department. I crafted a 20 question survey through an iPad application called, Quick Tap Survey. The Ferry’s four new iPad minis replaced the old paper and pencil surveys; which was a difficult way to save and collect demographics and other types of data. I had the chance to ride on the Ferry, implement the iPad survey process and witness the huge success. Who wouldn’t want to take a survey on an iPad? I also learned key data collecting strategies, how to write and word survey questions, and had the amazing opportunity to talk to hundreds of Ferry passengers. It was a prominent moment for me this summer. Overall, the process allowed me to keep in mind the Ferry’s message; while asking customers questions that would essentially gather demographic data.

In the end, I have helped change the message at the Wilmington airport through more than social media. In addition, I strengthened my writing skills and crafted new skills in marketing and data collection through working with the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. My internship, by far, exceeded my expectations.

-Natalie Hines

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