Piedmont Airlines turns to video to keep communication flying with Creative Cloud

Photograph of plane flying in the clouds against a blue sky.

All images courtesy of Piedmont Airlines.

By Dave Helmly

Posted on 06-09-2021

Piedmont Airlines — a regional subsidiary of American Airlines — has placed video at the core of its internal and external communication and marketing strategy. From its headquarters in Salisbury, Maryland to Anchorage, Alaska, the company has teams all over the United States, and video is an essential tool for communicating with them. Video content is used to improve in-house messaging and ensure it’s consistent, recruit new staff (from pilots and flight attendants to maintenance technicians and customer service agents), and also to onboard new hires.

In March 2020, the corporate communications team was gearing up for a range of high-profile recruiting events and training initiatives. As COVID-19 hit, Piedmont needed to urgently pivot. The team’s focus turned to the creation of brand assets to communicate important messages about the pandemic — all using an improved, more collaborative digital workflow with Adobe Creative Cloud and Creative Cloud Libraries.

“Video has helped us to peek inside and show different parts of our operation that you wouldn’t normally see,” says Arthur Lembo, corporate videographer at Piedmont. “But when the pandemic started having a major impact on our industry, we needed to make sure our employees spread across the entire country were all on the same page about COVID, especially because every state has different regulations and is experiencing the pandemic differently.”

The shift to a more collaborative and remote workflow

With video taking an even greater importance at Piedmont, the company’s internal video podcast was used as one of the main vehicles for internal communication. Featuring everyone from the CEO to representatives of all the different departments, it enabled the team to provide leadership, be transparent, and share frequent news updates. The production, however, needed to be a lot faster than usual.

“We tend to have a week to film the podcast, edit it, and get it signed off,” Lembo explains. “Communications were changing every single day at the start of the pandemic, however, so we aimed to film in the morning, edit, and then publish either the same day or the next morning.”

Other graphics and branding materials, like flyers and posters, were primarily focused on communicating safety for customers and the company’s commitment to preserving jobs. Visuals needed to be adapted to reflect the new environment and show employees wearing face masks to protect against and limit the spread of COVID-19. They also needed to be sent out as quickly as possible to give people access to the most up-to-date information. As well as creating their own assets, the team also needed to make sure the messaging matched the brand assets Piedmont received from its parent company American Airlines.

Initial concepts and designs for the 10-year anniversary emblem of Piedmont Airline’s West division. See the case study on Behance.

With demand for timely, personal communications higher than ever before, the Piedmont team shifted their digital video production into high gear, leaning on their collaborative workflows using Adobe Creative Cloud tools, such as Premiere Pro (which allows multi-camera editing), InDesign, Illustrator, and After Effects to speed along the production process. Team Projects, meanwhile, helped new team members understand time-saving techniques such as how to animate multiple icons, while dynamic linking connected Premiere Pro with After Effects. Creative Cloud Libraries ensured assets could be synced, so that all the information was consistent and accurate at all times. Even QR codes made an appearance, taking on a new significance.

“I was never an advocate of QR codes before, but I definitely am now,” laughs Sarah Bowler, graphic designer at Piedmont Airlines. “We used the QR code tool in InDesign a lot because we had to print posters and put them up at the airports to advise on all the COVID regulations. We also created interactive PDFs in InDesign and emailed them around, so people could click on the links and learn more about what was happening.”

Adobe Lightroom optimized the workflow to be even more efficient, as it helped to organize the — often very large — visual assets and share with people from different departments, even those who might not have an Adobe account, using Lightroom web galleries.

“We needed to edit hundreds of photos,” recalls Kylie Barber, a videographer intern at Piedmont Airlines. “Lightroom enabled me to easily edit them, tag them, and change the lighting where necessary. Editing photos live and sharing albums to easily get feedback made a huge difference.”

Celebrating a company milestone digitally

One of the biggest campaigns the team worked on during the past year was the celebration of Piedmont’s 10-year anniversary of its west division in the United States — a milestone in the airline’s history. As a big in-person event at each of the different locations was no longer an option during COVID-19, the team created a stunning video documentary and a multitude of graphics, digital posts, and print collateral. The goal was for team members to have something special to commemorate their work over the past 10 years and educate new team members.

The campaign included icons, created in Illustrator, that captured the essence and unique personality of each west division airport. “We wanted to give appreciation to our airports in the west,” Lembo explains. “We wanted the staff that worked there to feel special, and when they saw the illustrations, they could immediately identify which icon was theirs, which was amazing.”

The airport icons graphics were also incorporated into animations, which were used to congratulate the teams in each individual location on their anniversary and show the airport on a map. They also featured in a digital west division travel guide that was shared across the company and included recommendations for restaurants and local activities by the staff of each airport.

Graphic design intern Ian Atchison created minimalistic icons that captured the essence of every west division airport.

“It was a fun project and a creative challenge,” Lembo remembers. “We gathered a wide range of archival material from various sources across our organization and traveled to three remote locations to film during COVID. Overall, we filmed over eight hours of interviews and many hours of b-roll footage. This meant we ended up with gigabytes of files that all needed to have consistent branding.”

A separate library in Creative Cloud Libraries was set up just for this project, including custom graphics, colors, and fonts. Maps were created in Illustrator, animated in After Effects, and dynamically linked to Premiere Pro to show East Coast staff where all the airports on the West Coast were located. “We also solicited team members from each location to work together to provide their location’s favorite places to eat and sights to see/things to do. We took their recommendations and marked them on a map for reference and illustrated the highlighted landmarks. Along with character styles and colors, each station had their own folder in our West Division Creative Cloud library,” said Bowler.

“This became advantageous during the layout phase since everything was well organized from the start. Our process was a seamless drag and drop and if changes were needed on graphical elements, Ian could update them in illustrator while I continued in InDesign on layout.”

It was in this project that Piedmont’s improved collaboration approach really came into its own. It meant that the social media coordinator could just download the relevant libraries on her phone (viewed by file type for easy sorting) and post them to the networks.

The Piedmont Airlines West Division Guide, created and managed using Adobe Creative Cloud and Creative Cloud Libraries.

“With this project, we were able to make the West Division airports feel remembered and recognized as they hit their 10-year milestone while also engaging the rest of the company to connect with, and even travel to visit, the West Division airports and their teams,” added Bowler.

The communications team created this documentary on the history of Piedmont’s West Division despite COVID-19 challenges.

The power of flexibility and experimentation

Finding new ways to work collaboratively enabled Piedmont to pivot quickly during COVID-19 and establish a new creative workflow. This was enhanced by the team’s enthusiasm for experimentation and learning new tools, which could easily be adapted for future projects and created synergy between all the different teams and departments. Their workflow ensures that branding is always consistent with parent company American Airlines but also can be unique to Piedmont whenever possible.

“The creative team has shown an incredible amount of resilience and the ability to adapt in a very challenging environment,” adds Crystal Byrd, Piedmont’s director of corporate communications. “Working remotely with Adobe’s digital tools, they were instrumental in producing consistent messaging that ensured our employees in the West were on the same page and felt the same love as the East Coast. They really knocked it out of the park.”

Topics: Customer Stories, Insights & Inspiration, Video & Audio, Travel & Hospitality, COVID-19, Creative Cloud, Digital Transformation

Products: Creative Cloud, After Effects, Illustrator, InDesign, Lightroom, Premiere Pro,