Hainan Airlines, China’s largest non-government-owned airline, took its first flight to North America in June 2008, thus beginning the only nonstop service between Beijing and Seattle.
With no American presence, the Hainan Airlines brand was virtually unknown and the airline wanted to enter the highly competitive U.S. market. As an emerging player in the Asian market with an entrepreneurial spirit, Hainan Airlines had no advertising campaign or budget and had to rely solely on Nyhus’ public relations campaign to drive interest and ticket sales for the launch of the new service. In addition, all key decisions were made in Beijing.
Nyhus created a proactive public relations and networking program to introduce Hainan Airlines to the greater Seattle community, as well as the U.S. market. The program included not only news releases and targeted media pitches but also introductions to influential people and organizations in the Asian American and business community. Nyhus also leveraged Hainan’s relationship with internationally renowned investor George Soros as a way to substantially validate Hainan’s financial backing and future outlook.
Nyhus networking helped secure a major U.S. trade mission to Beijing for Hainan Airlines. This, in turn, helped position Hainan Airlines as an innovative, safe and entrepreneurial company with exceptional services. Getting these key messages into the media also shaped initial impressions from readers unfamiliar with the company. Nyhus generated earned-media coverage in multiple national and local outlets, including KING 5 TV, KOMO TV, KPLU FM, Business Traveler magazine, Northwest Asian Weekly, News Tribune, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, USA Today, and Business Week. Nyhus also worked with the Seattle Times on two separate high-profile feature stories that included one-on-one interviews with both President Wang and Chairman Chen. As a result, Hainan Airlines met its goals for business and leisure travelers during a relatively slow travel season.