Public Relations Campaigns: 1st Place

DFW's 40th Anniversary Campaign

In January, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport celebrated its 40th anniversary.

The airport, larger than the island of Manhattan, is an Aerotropolis, serving as a major international port and the region’s greatest economic engine. Since DFW’s opening the Dallas- Fort Worth region has grown in population from 2.5 million to 6.7 million. DFW Airport currently contributes an estimated $31.6 billion annually to the region’s economy. The story behind the creation of the world’s 4th busiest airport and its emergence into the major economic driver for the region is one that the DFW Airport Public Affairs team was intent on sharing with the greater Dallas/Fort Worth community on the occasion of the 40th anniversary.

Project Goals: 

DFW’s Public Affairs team set out to tell the Airport’s story in a manner that paid respect to its history, illustrated the breadth and magnitude of its current operations, and offered a snapshot into its future. It was imperative to develop angles and use channels that reach and resonate with audiences with biggest stakes in the airport, its community, customers and network of business partners and employees. The team would use exclusives, media relations, events and social media to tell this story.

  • DFW planned a series of exclusives with the Dallas Morning News for a special section timed for January 2014 that would serve as the cornerstone to the expected media coverage.
  • The Public Affairs team utilized its media relationships, along with planning, preparation and execution to produce the in-depth, comprehensive coverage across major media outlets.
  • The DFW Public Affairs team conceived and organized a media event, designed the event to mirror the celebration of DFW’s 1974 inaugural flight, feature key DFW, government and airline officials, and honor longtime employees.
  • DFW planned social media to engage its customers and partners and capture the sentiment of some of the Airport’s customers in an organic and positive manner.


Dallas Morning News
Work with Dallas Morning News began during the summer of 2013. Public Affairs initially discussed the concept of a group of stories with the newspaper’s business writers, which led to a larger meeting with business and editorial section leads. From there, DFW collaborated with over a dozen reporters, editors, graphic artists and photographers to brainstorm develop and fine tune story ideas. This resulted in dozens of viable angles – more than a special section could handle. The newspaper retained complete editorial control, with DFW Public Affairs offering guidance, background and historical information. The special section alone would cover topics including history, economic impact, import/export business, TRIP program, architecture, concessions, legislation, management changes, and public transport. Additional stories covered topics like airport amenities, fire training and research education, international route expansion, neighboring residential development and socioeconomic regionalism. And those were just the stories in the Dallas Morning News!

Media Relations
Public Affairs worked with the Airport’s leadership team and management staff to accommodate reporters’ needs, facilitating escorted tours of secured areas, fact checking missions and interviews with airport and government officials. Public Affairs partnered with airlines, concession partners, and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officials amongst others to provide access to information, photography and essential research. The team worked extensively for several months with reporters from the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Associated Press and successfully pitched 100+ major local and national media outlets. Broadcast outlets were invited to cover the media event. Paid advertising from DFW and partners supported editorial coverage.

DFW drafted a release that involved collaboration with the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth, DFW’s new CEO and American Airlines, DFW’s main customer. Plans were for national and international wire distribution, phone/email pitching and presence on DFW Airport and partner online properties.

Media Event
The media event took place January 13, 2014 and replicated the inaugural flight celebration in great detail. The event featured the designation of an incoming American Airlines flight 1461 from Little Rock as the 40th Anniversary flight. The plane received the traditional DFW “shower of affection” water cannon salute upon arrival and passengers received yellow roses and a celebratory welcome just as the first passengers of AA flight 341 did 40 years prior. DFW Public Affairs engaged with American Airlines and several DFW Airport internal departments to successfully coordinate the event.

DFW’s Twitter audience was encouraged to share their congratulatory wishes and favorite DFW memories using the hashtag #DFW40. DFW’s social media team also posted relevant content to its Facebook and Instagram accounts.


Never before has Dallas Fort Worth International Airport’s story been told with such detail. As a result of its efforts, DFW garnered arguably the most comprehensive print coverage the Airport has seen in its operational history for a non-breaking news event. The tenor of the resulting news coverage can be summarized in the newspaper special section’s simple headline: “D/FW AT 40: The Airport that Made Dallas-Fort Worth Take Off.”

In all, coverage generated 412 unique stories and reached 75 million potential viewers. The press release and media event garnered hits in 200+ media outlets, including 40+ newspapers, more than 100 websites and 60 television and radio broadcast outlets. The tone of the coverage was overwhelmingly positive and captured in great detail the influence and impact that DFW Airport has had in its 40 years of operation, and its effect on the regional economy. The messaging was on point and carried through all coverage.

Some of the headlines and key quotes seen in the coverage include:

  • Reflecting on D/FW’s 40 high-flying years
  • D/FW becoming a world-class, destination airport
  • D/FW aims for high-end
  • Thinking locally, globally

The greatest extent of the coverage came from The Dallas Morning News, which devoted 23 pages to various news stories over four separate days, including three front page stories and the 12-page special section printed on Sunday, January 12, 2014, which was supplemented with three business section columns and an editorial. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also printed a front-page story on the day prior to DFW’s 40th anniversary. Work with the Associated Press resulted in an additional story printed on 45+ regional and national newspapers and their corresponding web sites.

The Dallas Morning News 40th Anniversary coverage was so comprehensive that the Airport acquired several thousand copies after the fact and is utilizing the section both for internal and external audiences and as an important business development tool.

The social media response included congratulations from DFW partners and followers, and many sites even created graphics specifically to congratulate DFW. Four posts made to the DFW Facebook page in celebration of the 40th anniversary. Four Facebook posts resulted in 25,813 people reached, 5,814 engagements, 692 likes, 45 comments and 67 shares. On the day of DFW’s 40th anniversary, DFW’s Twitter account received 200 mentions and resulted in 1,176,475 impressions. The #DFW40 hashtag resulted in 148 tweets and reach an audience of more than 900,000 people.

The Airport, a city of its own, is a complex organization that directly influences not only the lives of its neighbors, but of those across the globe. Its nickname, DFW, is synonymous with the region for a reason. The coverage received for DFW’s 40th anniversary in the end was a fitting and appropriate level of coverage devoted to the world’s fourth busiest airport, and its impact and economic benefits provided to the citizens of the Dallas / Fort Worth region.


Public Affairs operated within the department’s normal scope of work. The project included normal labor costs. Additional budgets were allocated for the media event ($5000) and advertising ($6000)