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How Did Delta Reach A 95% Vaccination Rate With Employees?

Insights From Gina Laughlin, Managing Director of Employee Communications at Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines was on top of the world at the start of 2020, with a workforce that was 90,000 people strong.  They were winning awards for customer experience and paying out $1.6 billion in profit-sharing to employees.

Six weeks later, COVID gut-punched the entire airline industry — along with many other industries – and Delta Air Lines had to simultaneously figure out how to continue doing business while keeping employees and customers safe, all in a constantly-changing environment of rules and regulations, while adjusting to a harsh new financial reality that saw business and leisure travel come to, effectively, a screeching halt.

Gina Laughlin, Managing Director of Employee Communications at Delta Air Lines, described the strategies the company took to get through their 3 Phases of COVID-19:

  1. Phase I:  Crisis Mode (March 2020 – Sept. 2020).  This included working with HR to downsize the workforce without involuntary furloughs, offering unpaid leaves of absence and retirement packages and communicating daily to employees as the CDC and World Health Organization issued rapidly-changing operation guidelines for the airline industry.  Fortunately, Delta had built a culture of open, two-way communication – and they found employees were hungry for as much information as possible during this uncertain time.   They ran weekly town hall meetings with CEO Ed Bastian and other key leadership team members; brought in medical expert partners for updates and sent out daily emails in support of the Stop The Spread-Save Lives campaign.  All communications could be accessed after the fact – key for a 24/7 traveling workforce.  All messaging revolved around 3 basic tenets:  Take Care of Delta Employees; Take Care of Customers and Preserve the Liquidity of the Company.  Communication professionals listened to employee feedback via a quarterly Pulse survey and adjusted any communication that would make Delta appear “tone deaf” in this new environment.
  2. Phase II: Adjusting To The New Normal (Oct. 2020 – Oct. 2021).  As spring/summer travel started to come back, Delta focused on the best way to accommodate the increase while hammering home messages on what to do to keep employees and customers safe, which included cleaning protocols, providing free testing and, when the vaccine became available, getting employees vaccinated.  They adjusted communication frequency to “pre-COVID levels”, and laid the groundwork early with vaccination messaging in a highly-targeted campaign that rolled out state-by-state.  They partnered with state officials and CVS on the distribution of vaccines and worked with the community to make them as accessible as possible under the “Connected Together-Protected Together” campaign.  Because the culture of rewarding employees for making responsible health choices already existed (e.g. earning Delta health rewards for actions like getting physicals and flu shots), they were able to get 50% of employees vaccinated (1 dose plus) by April 2021 – an impressive number.  They then focused on removing all barriers to getting the vaccine, including offering it in the airport, via “vaccine trucks” on the ramp and in employee parking lots, offering personal paid time off to recover from any vaccine side-effects and allowing employees to bring family members to get vaccinated with them.  To get to the goal of 75% (considered at the time to be the herd immunity benchmark), they used an incentive drawing with cash and travel prizes, spotlighting the role models by sharing footage of the winners in their communications.  Important point:  although leadership was clear they wanted everyone to get vaccinated, they made a promise not to mandate it – so no employee would lose their job as a result of not getting the vaccine. Instead, they gave employees a choice – they could get vaccinated, or pay a healthcare surcharge.  They talked openly about this decision in town hall meetings, sharing the “why” behind the decision and providing a two-way forum for employees to ask questions and give feedback. This open communication platform was important for employees to both agree and disagree with Delta’s decision.
  3. Phase III: Living With The Changing Face of COVID.  (Nov. 2021 – Present).  This is where “optimism meets reality” as new strains of the virus appear, and regulations are issued (e.g. Federal mask mandate).  With more than 95% of the workforce vaccinated, Delta is now focused on reinforcing key messages delivered by trusted leadership and making testing as convenient as possible (Delta employees are able to order boxes of 6 online and also can be tested weekly at work).  Another strategy:  Delta is leveraging the compliments they get from customers by sharing them with all employees, building pride and morale.  Finally, a simple piece of advice that costs nothing – recognize and thank employees often for a job well done in difficult circumstances!


For further questions, Gina Laughlin can be reached at gina.p.laughlin@delta.comTo read more about Delta Air Lines and CEO Ed Bastian, view the recent article from PRSA Issues and Trends

For information about Yankee Chapter PRSA Membership, visit



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Beyond COVID-19 Issue Anticipation for 2022

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2021 Yankee Chapter Annual Meeting! Our panel presentation (Beyond COVID-19 – Issue Anticipation for 2022) was a valuable tool for communicators looking to identify challenges and opportunities in a post-pandemic world.

In case you missed it, a recording of the panel discussion and presentation are available here:

Beyond COVID-19 – Issue Anticipation for 2022 PDF Presentation:

Yankee Chapter PRSA logo

2019 Annual Meeting — How SNHU Uses Marketing Communications Throughout the Student Lifecycle

Join Yankee Chapter PRSA for its annual meeting at Red River Theatres on October 30, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. The event includes a continental breakfast and networking at 8:30 a.m., followed by a presentation from Kristin Lamas Patterson, from Southern New Hampshire University, on “How SNHU Uses Marketing Communications throughout the Student Lifecycle.” The chapter will hold its brief annual meeting, including election of offices, immediately following the presentation.

Southern New Hampshire University has increased its student population exponentially in the last 10 years. SNHU Marketing and Communications leader Kristin Lamas Patterson will share an overview of the university’s marketing approach and how communication is critical to the student experience.

Kristin Lamas Patterson is a marketing and communications leader with more than 20 years of experience, most recently at Southern New Hampshire University — one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. She oversees the university’s prospective and current student marketing and communications, marketing automation and social media. Prior to joining SNHU, she held leadership positions at PR/advertising agencies and served on the Maine PR Council board.

PRSA/VT/NH Marketing Group members: $25.00
Member & Guest: $30.00
Not-Yet Members: $35.00
Students/Interns: $5




President, Stefanie Breton (**), City of Concord

President-Elect, Amber Bedi, APR (**), Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center

Past President, Andy Morse, Concord Regional VNA

Secretary, VACANT

Treasurer, Seth Wheeler, APR (**), New Hampshire Electric Cooperative

Assistant Treasurer, Susan Geier (**),Citizens Count

Director, Roz Whitaker’Heck, APR, Champlain College (Term expires 12/31/20)

Director, AnnMarie French, New Hampshire Fiscal Policy lnstitute (Term expires 12/31/20)

Director, Lloyd Ziel, American Red Cross (Term expires 12/31/20)

Director, Mary Ellen Hettinger, APR, Breathe New Hampshire (Term expires 12/31/20)

Director, Michelle Dunn, Southern New Hampshire University  (Term expires 12/31/20)

Director, Kristen Lestock (**), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Term expire s 12/31/21)

Director, Audra Burns (**), Dartmouth-Hitchcock Media Relations Manager (Term expires 12/31/21)

(**) Requires Vote






When “It” Hits The Fan!

A crisis can strike any business at any time. Join Scott Spradling of The Spradling Group to learn how to anticipate likely scenarios and how they can impact your stakeholders. You will get a plan for rebuilding corporate and institutional image and enhancing positive relations with the public, customers, opinion leaders, and the media.

WHEN: Wednesday, September 25, 2019 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
WHERE: Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, 749 East Industrial Park Drive, Manchester, NH 03109
COST: Members and VT/NH Marketing Group Members – $20; Nonmembers- $25; Students/Interns – $10

Registration link for Loeb School PD Session

Katie Delahaye Paine, aka The Measurement Queen

Measurement Base Camp – May 16

Most communications professionals have listened to at least one, if not many, lectures on how to do measurement right. The challenge is, once they’ve heard the theory, how do they implement it at their place of work?

What sounds great in a lecture hall or at a conference can end up being a complex situation when one is faced with a limited budget, no staff, and competing priorities. To help individuals prepare and manage these hurdles and more, Paine Publishing is holding a Measurement Base Camp—a one-day intensive training session that will cover all things measurement—on May 16. Attendance is limited to 25 people, so don’t wait.

Where: Shankhassick Farm, 51 Durham Point Road, Durham, NH

When: Thursday, May 16, 2019 — 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cost: Early Bird Rate — $350; Regular Rate (After April 1, 2019) — $400

Information and Registration

Crisis Communications – The First 48 Webinar – April 17

Scott Tranchemontagne, Montagne Communications

Scott Tranchemontagne, Montagne Communications

Crisis Communicators have two critical time periods in which to respond to the media and shape public perception, the first 48 minutes and the first 48 hours of a crisis situation. Join Scott Tranchemontagne of Montagne Communications, who will be highlighting recent crisis communications scenarios where the “First 48” was handled very well – and where it was not. He will talk about the key steps that must be taken within each time period to create success.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 17, Noon to 1 p.m.






Meet the Media – January 24

In today’s fast paced media environment, it can be challenging to capture a reporter’s attention. Join us to hear from our panel of media experts on what they look for in pitches from public relations and communications professionals. Our panelists will share their tips, outlook, and advice on how to work with them and their media outlets. Here’s your chance to ask the media about how to connect them with your story.

WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 24, 5 to 7 p.m.

WHERE: Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, 749 East Industrial Park Drive, Manchester, NH 03109

COST: PRSA Members and VT/NH Marketing Group Members: $10; Member & Guest: $15; Non-Members: $20; Students/Interns/Members of the Media: No Charge

Media panelists include:

Attention: The internal data of table “13” is corrupted!


2018 Annual Meeting Nov. 1

Join Yankee Chapter PRSA for a discussion on How to Keep Brands Relevant in a Changing Environment followed by our annual meeting and networking with professional colleagues.

Hear expert commentary from  Rebecca Acton, Director of Digital Marketing, Matter Communications 

Presenting: Keeping Brands Relevant in a Changing Environment

When: Thursday, Nov. 1, 8:30 a.m.

Where: Red River Theatres, Concord, N.H.

$25: PRSA and VT/NH Marketing Group members
$30: Member & Guest
$35: Not-Yet Members; $5: Students/Interns

Sponsored by Northeast Delta Dental

Stacey Smith

Measuring Internal Communications Success – 9/25/18

The Newly Codified Measurement Standards  for Internal Communications

How They Can Help Focus & Improve Your Internal Communication Efforts

Presented by Yankee Chapter Member Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA

Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA

Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA

An international team of internal communications experts, including Yankee Chapter’s own Stacey Smith, has been researching internal communications standards for the past three years, and has agreed upon 22 measurement standards for internal communication work. Stacey will review the standards, talk about how they were identified, and discuss how you can use them to both measure your results and bring focus to your internal relations and communications efforts.

WHEN: Tuesday, September 25, 2018 from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Walker Auditorium, Southern New Hampshire University,2500 North River Road Manchester, NH

COST: ; Students Free


When the Unthinkable Happens, What You Do Before Determines the After – August 16

When the Unthinkable Happens, What You Do Before Determines the After, with Clark Dumont, M.S., APR

When events occur in magnitudes that challenge belief, what is done before and in the immediate aftermath, can speed recovery and strengthen an organization’s and its community’s resiliency. This discussion will focus on the elements of a crisis, how communicators can take, steer, and support preventive actions building toward recovery and resiliency. The discussion will provide insights to lessons learned from the mass casualty shooting in Las Vegas.

August 16, 5 p.m.

Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications

749 East Industrial Park Drive

Manchester, NH 03109