Southwest Airlines Captain Bryan Knight was only five years old in 1967 when he saw his father, Colonel Roy Knight, for the last time. Knight’s dad left Love Field in Dallas for Vietnam, where he was shot down and declared missing in action in Laos.
Then, in mid-2019, Knight’s family was contacted by the Department of Defense: His father’s remains had been found.
Securing permission to fly his father’s remains home for the final time, Knight made appropriate arrangements with his employer, which is how the Southwest communications team learned about the opportunity to capture the journey in a documentary-style video. The success of that effort has earned Southwest first place in the “Public Relations Video” category of PR Daily’s Video & Visual Awards.
The story was about more than the journey; it focused on the airline’s dedication to the military and its commitment to connecting people to what is important in their lives. The video’s goals included capturing attention for the story, securing an exclusive story with the CBS affiliate in Dallas and using the video to pitch the story to journalists in key markets.
Logistically, the team ensured they had access to each phase of the flight, from preflight operations in Oakland, California to post-landing activities in Dallas, with video captured in Networks Operations Control and audio pulled from Air Traffic Control.
On the ground in Dallas, employees of Southwest and the City of Dallas Airport waited to show their respects. Coincidentally, an international journalist was traveling through Dallas Love Field at the time of the arrival ceremony. His tweets about the ceremony were retweeted by Southwest, sparking international attention.
The Facebook video racked up more than 1 million views in just 48 hours; ultimately, nearly 5 million views were recorded, along with more on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Southwest’s intranet. CBS did pick up the story, along with NBC and the Washington Post. The entire effort cost only $1,000.
Congrats to Stephen Keller, Erin Boren and Dan Landson.