Recently, news broke about the one rare thing that enabled the CEOs of American, Delta, and United Airlines to see eye to eye, and speak with one voice.

They've teamed up to lobby President Trump in a unique and striking way -- begging him practically, to take action on something that would benefit them greatly at the expense of a foreign airline.

We'll discuss what they're trying to do below, but really, that's almost beside the point for our purposes. 

The way they're doing it, and the tone of their plea, contains incredible lessons for just about anyone in business trying to convince the "powers that be" to change things in their favor.

Plus, to cut right to the chase, you have to see this video.

Oh, the video

I'm just going to step aside and let you watch this. Just keep in mind that it's the three big U.S. airlines trying to cajole President Trump to take an action on their behalf.

The full transcript is short, so we'll just include it here and analyze it:

  • First, a quote from Trump: "We will stand up to trade cheating anywhere and everywhere it threatens the American job."
  • Next, a narrator saying that exactly what Trump promised to protect against is happening: "Now, 1.2 million jobs and the U.S. airline industry are at risk because mideast carriers pump billions in illegal subsidies into their airlines."
  • Third, a big "atta-boy" to Trump, followed by a phrase designed to make him feel like a foreign country is mocking him: "President Trump took action to stop the trade cheating, but Qatar continues to break the rules."
  • And finally, the coup de grace: "Thank you President Trump. America's airline workers are counting on you to enforce our trade agreements."

It's shameless, hilarious as far as I'm concerned, and might just turn out to be effective. And you'll notice that you don't actually hear a single word in it about American, Delta, or United Airlines.

What it's all about

Of course, that's who's behind it, as part of their trade group, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies.

Every word in the video is designed to make this seem like Trump standing up for the American worker, and then having a foreign power threaten what he's done for them -- coupled with both thanking Trump and begging him for help.

As I wrote last month, the story behind the whole thing is a little less gripping:

Basically, the U.S. airlines want Trump to crack down on Air Italy, which is adding nonstop flights to the U.S. The reason they're so focused on that fairly small airline is that it's 49 percent owned by Qatar Airways.

The U.S. airlines say the Qatari government pours billions into its flag carrier, which gives it an unfair advantage, and that now that Qatar has signed an agreement with the U.S. government, it's trying to use Air Italy to get around the deal and expand to the U.S. market.

See how the issue is a lot sexier and designed to get Trump to act, the way the airlines put itin their ad?

'Just run a whole bunch of ads on Fox News?'

Frankly, what pulls me to this story for the second time in two months -- after the airlines banded together to lobby Trump via an open letter in the New York Times and the New York Post -- is the missing link that I saw at the time.

Instead of running open letters that I'm not sure Trump would ever see, I suggested, wouldn't it make more sense to film a commercial, and then "just run a whole bunch of ads on Fox News?"

That's the one sure way that many companies and lobbyists have found of making sure that Trump gets their message. 

Lo and behold, that's apparently exactly what they're doing. I don't 100 percent for sure whether the ad is on Fox News, but let's just make an educated guess.

And sure enough, according to  Mateusz Maszcysnski of the airline blog Paddle Your Own Kanoo, it's running through May 15, exclusively in Washington.

Will it work? Who can tell. But as a piece of messaging designed to try to manipulate one of the most powerful men in the world into action, it's more than a bit shameless -- and it's also absolutely brilliant.

Published on: May 5, 2019
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