Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a plane! And a PR Stunt!

Deanna here, Account Supervisor at LCI. Public relations is known for many things. Perhaps amongst the most recognizable and memorable are publicity stunts. Though I’ve never seen an episode of MTV’s “reality” show “The Hills,” from what I’ve come to understand, it was frequently used as a platform for publicity stunts by a number of its infamous cast mates, to varying success.

While some stunts are of little value, thus earning the flashy PR tactic an undeserved reputation of vanity, there are others of such high importance that they become a part of our culture. This weekend, the city of San Francisco hosted one of the U.S. armed forces’ greatest PR weapons — no pun intended. The famous Blue Angels made several appearances as part of the Bay Area’s Fleet Week — a 20 year tradition treasured deeply by locals and Northern California tourists alike. As someone who spent the last nearly 10 years of her life experiencing a very different kind of Fleet Week in the Big Apple, hearing the Navy’s Blue Angels soar overhead these October afternoons has been quite a treat. Watching their precision flights and gut-churning dives, flips and loops, I found myself swept up in San Francisco’s Fleet-Week fever. I even found myself thinking how cool it would be to have joined the Navy or Air Force. Thus the Blue Angels succeeded in their mission. Yes, they entertain millions each year with their awe-inducing aerial shows but that is only their secondary goal.

In researching the Blue Angels prior to their arrival in the Bay Area, I learned that the group was founded after World War II to continue the public’s interest in Navy aviation. More than 60 years on, the stated mission of this one-of-a-kind aerial team is to, “… enhance Navy and Marine Corps recruiting efforts and to represent the naval service to the United States… The Blue Angels serve as positive role models and goodwill ambassadors for the U. S. Navy and Marine Corps.”

Plain and simple. The Blue Angels are a mechanism for American armed forces to manage their reputation with the public and to encourage fresh recruitments. They achieve this by putting on daring public air shows of our Navy’s aviation experts in action — quite literally a stunt — created for publicity purposes. For my part, it has to be one of the coolest, most inspiring (and longest running) PR stunts. After so many years, it’s gone beyond publicity. It’s American tradition!

Though I didn’t track down stats on whether recruits increased after a Blue Angels aviation display, I can say that based on my own experience upon viewing the troupe zip around San Francisco, I proudly reinforced my support of our brave men and women who protect our nation without asking for our thanks. So thank you, Blue Angels, and thank you to our armed forces around the world. Long live the red, white and blue!

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2 Comments

  1. david Reply

    Deanna – couldn’t agree more with you. The Blue Angels are one of the most successful PR stunts. But unlike you, I have a different take. As a lifelong pacifist, I’m offended by the masquerading of such an overt PR photo opp all in an effort to promote what I believe is an agenda for war and aggression. And the military is doing it in one of the country’s most peace-loving regions: the San Francisco Bay Area. What we agree on is that PR efforts such as this can be used – either overtly or not so overtly – to sway and influence public opinion. I just wish the military were a little bit more upfront about the fact that enlisting our young men and woman does in fact mean they often die — and that war often is not the best way to advance the American agenda but only creates further enemies worldwide. I’m still a peacenik from the 60’s.

  2. Donna Reply

    Thanks for shedding a bit of a different light on this, Deanna. I really enjoy the watching the Blue Angels each year – it always seems like it’s sunny during Fleet Week weekend and a reason to get together with friends and watch the show with a glass of wine in hand. But it is certainly much more than that. Without a strong military force, Americans would not enjoy the many freedoms that we have today and I am appreciative of what our country does to protect those freedoms.