Passport to PR Re-cap: Keynote Speaker Christina Cassotis

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By Sara Salter, Communications & Digital Strategy Committee Member

The Pittsburgh Airport serves thousands of customers every day, each with their own stories — business professionals, families, and vacationers alike — and none would be possible without Christina Cassotis. Cassotis is the mastermind behind much of the magic that happens as the Chief Executive Officer at Allegheny County Airport Authority.

With poise and prowess, Cassotis approached the podium and began to share with Passport to PR attendees the importance of the aviation industry in our interconnected global community today. Aviation runs in her blood; her father was a pilot and so this notion was shared with her from a young age.

Cassotis talked about her experiences moving from a public relations professional to CEO and a few challenges she faced along the way. She explained how some communities didn’t appreciate new expansions going into the airport as it disrupted their neighborhood. A coworker of hers didn’t understand the fuss and exclaimed, “It’s just like adding another sail to a yacht.”

This insensitivity struck Cassotis as she remarked the importance of open communication in public relations. “It’s about being able to talk to people in a way that they could listen, would listen and would hear you,” Cassotis said. “The most important job that we had in a change environment was not letting people know what we were doing — but more importantly: why.”

Cassotis stressed the importance of knowing that real people are at the other end listening and it is important to keep that in mind every step of the way. She emphasized the importance of crisis communications in the aviation business because there are constant potential threats. Her team combats this by close monitoring and thinking one step ahead. She breaks everything down so that it is tangible and easily understandable so that she can best relay it to her audience. Cassotis mentioned that it wasn’t always easy being a woman in the field. “If you’re a professional woman, never apologize for anything — women have to stop apologizing,” said Cassotis.

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