Monday, April 27, 2009

Use Google Alerts to Find Bird and Wildlife Strike News Stories

When the FAA proposed to severely restrict the public's access to the FAA's bird and wildlife strike database in March 2009, it ignited controversy as well as hundreds of news stories related to the proposed policy change. When the DOT and the FAA reversed course the following month, it led to hundreds of other articles, many of them focusing on the strike record of specific airports and airlines.

This spike in interest represented an opportunity to increase AirSafe.com's audience by using the media coverage to direct people to bird and wildlife strike information on AirSafe.com's web sites and blogs.

The key was that many of these articles allowed readers to leave comments. AirSafe.com left comments on many of these articles, making sure that the comments invited the reader to visit an AirSafe.com related site.

Finding the articles was particularly easy, with the most important tool being Google Alerts, a free service that allows you tell Google to search for recently published content that contain specific keywords of interest.

The full plan to take advantage of the sudden public attention had three parts:

1. Use Google Alerts to find out what news stories were coming out online (in this case, the search terms [+faa +"bird strike"] were used).

2. Find the articles with the largest potential audience and either post comments to the article (always mentioning at least one of my bird strike blogs or sites).

3. If an article from a medium to large media organization had contact information for the writer of the story, I'd make a point to contact that person by phone or email and offer to provide information or answer questions.

By letting Google do my research for me, I was able to easily find dozens of opportunities to post comments to articles and use those posts to direct readers to some of my resources. In addition, I also found relevant media contacts that I could help or that could help me later.

Each of AirSafe.com's comments were a variation of the following message:

Releasing the data was the right thing to do on the part of the FAA. The right thing to do on the part of the public is to use the data as a way to understand a problem and not as the final answer.

Keep in mind that the FAA bird strike database is voluntary, so you can't just look at the raw numbers. Aggressive reporting is only one reason why there may be many reports in the database from a particular airport or airline.

Aviation organizations like the AirSafe.com Foundation offer many insights into how one should approach aviation safety data. Many of their bird strike examples are at birds.airsafe.org and strikevideos.blogspot.com.


It's not too late to do this kind of thing for your web site or blog. Whether it is for bird strikes or for something else, if you have a blog or web site that needs a boost, and there is a major media frenzy that is relevant to your site or blog, try this three step marketing method yourself. Even if you don't place comments, it is an excellent way to identify reporters that you may want to approach later.

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