Rethinking An Infrastructure Report To Support Advocacy Efforts
ACI-NA is a trade association based in Washington, D.C.
Research & Analysis
The Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) had invested considerable resources over the years into its biennial infrastructure report, but found that the report’s narrow focus and lack of important context made it less accessible to policymaker audiences. The COVID-19 pandemic, which devastated the airport industry, further drove an urgent need to increase the report’s effectiveness as an advocacy tool. HPS was retained to rethink and redesign the report, reconceptualizing what it could be and how it could be used, identifying additional arguments to responsibly fund airport infrastructure, and updating the document to account for the unexpected shock caused by the pandemic.
HPS reframed the report to focus on not only the specific numbers around airports’ projected infrastructure needs, but the broader story behind what those needs are — and what makes them so important. This included:
- Expansion of data sources: HPS identified additional sources of data to marshal additional arguments for funding airport infrastructure, including data from past ACI surveys and publicly-sourced data. These additional sources enabled us to explain the underlying factors driving airports’ infrastructure needs.
- A focus on the economic angle: HPS reframed the report to focus on the broader benefits of airport infrastructure to local economies, a particularly resonant narrative in the wake of the economic devastation left by the pandemic.
- Localizing and personalizing: HPS held in-depth interviews with executives at nearly two dozen airports across the country, garnering valuable quotes and anecdotes to bring abstract “needs” to life through report case studies.
- Articulating “health infrastructure”: Through devising the lens of “health infrastructure,” the physical and organizational structures airports needed to put in place to safeguard the public’s health, HPS provided a direction for not only the report, but ACI-NA’s broader communications and advocacy around COVID-19.
- Story-first design: The previous iterations of the report included some callouts for specific projects, but these were few and visually understated. The new report, written and designed by HPS, used full-color photography and callouts to draw attention to the specific projects planned and underway at airports across the country.
- An expanded rollout: HPS created a rollout plan and supplemental documents to expand the report’s value and reach, beyond the press release and set of one-pagers created for previous iterations. This included pitches to local as well as national outlets, a one-pager template that airports could personalize with their own projects and data, briefing decks for lawmakers and press, additional one-pagers, and social graphics.
HPS’ work transformed the report, elevating its value to ACI-NA’s member airports and resulting in a set of materials that positioned ACI-NA to move quickly on legislative momentum.
- The report garnered attention and interest among the press and on the Hill. A primer deck based on the report was used to brief the committees of jurisdiction in the first few weeks following launch, and will continue to support Hill and third-party briefings in the future.
- The report and supporting collateral helped ACI-NA quickly capitalize on legislative momentum, including White House movement on infrastructure and support for user fees. The report enabled ACI to push for the release of a bipartisan bill on the PFC in the weeks following the report’s launch, with strong interest and support from both Democrats and Republicans.
- Stronger Republican support for the bill also manifested in the GOP counter-offer to the White House’s infrastructure bill, which, while smaller overall, included more funding for airports. The messaging produced for the report was successful in resonating on Capitol Hill, transcending ideology.
- ACI-NA’s members also embraced the report. The report’s “localize-and-personalize” attitude helped shine a light on the value that airports bring to their local communities — and increased the value that the report provided to individual airports. Many airports volunteered to be interviewed, enthusiastic about the opportunity to feature their story, while some who were not included in the report are actively reaching out to ask how they can be included in future iterations or current materials.