Improving Public Approval For Business Jets


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In an attempt to capture the public\'s perception of the biz jet industry, our group (consisting of 4 other gulfstream employees) conducted a research project via the use of surveys. The results confirmed our hypotheses. Hypotheses 1 & 2: Public perception (H1) and public approval (H2) of business jets will increase if the public understands the industry benefits to the economy.

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Improving Public Approval For Business Jets

  1. 1. Business Jet Approval 1 Running Head: BUSINESS JET APPROVAL Improving Public Approval for Business Jets Mark Boone Stephen Burton Eliot Goode Adam Reffert Mark Whatley University of South Carolina Beaufort BBAD Y396 Business Research Methods
  2. 2. Business Jet Approval 2 Executive Summary This project reports the results of an experiment testing one method proposed to help the business aviation industry manage its image. Beginning in late 2008 and continuing into 2009, news coverage projected a less than favorable view of the industry. This attention peaked when Detroit's 'Big Three' automotive companies traveled to Washington, D.C, each in separate private jets, to meet with Congress and negotiate a bailout. The aviation industry reacted slowly to the negative media coverage and experienced a compromised reputation. The industry responded by using websites and brochures. This research study tests whether informing the public of the industry's benefits to the economy leads to improved public perception and whether better perception will gain the industry higher public approval. The experiment tested two sample populations. The project team surveyed the first sample population to obtain a baseline perception of public opinion concerning the business jet industry. A second sample population of equal size received a fact sheet that provided information highlighting business aviation's impact on the economy. After reading the industry provided information, the participants in the second population completed the same questionnaire taken by the first group. After aggregating the responses, the experiment compared the difference in opinion between the two groups to determine whether positive information can affect the opinion of the public towards the business jet industry. The experiment supported two hypotheses significant for the industry. First, the business jet industry can improve its image by providing the public with industry
  3. 3. Business Jet Approval 3 information. Throughout the survey, the respondents who read the fact sheet supporting the business jet industry information reported responses more favorable for industry. This demonstrates that if the industry can find a reliable way to get a positive message to the public, the public will have a better view of the industry. The second hypothesis proposed that improved public perception leads to greater industry approval. The sample group that read the fact sheet reported higher approval of the industry than the sample group that only completed the survey. The research experiment indicates the business jet industry can take action to successfully manage its public image. This report details the significance of these trends in the 'Results' section of this document. Based on the results, the project team notes the need for additional research to identify the target audience, the message to be delivered, and the most effective means of communication. To manage this effort, the project team recommends development of an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program to capture these requirements and provide the public information that enhances and sustains a positive image of the business jet industry.
  4. 4. Business Jet Approval 4 Introduction A need exists for action in the business aviation community. Media scrutiny of business jet owners and operators has compromised the industry's reputation and image. After executives from General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler flew in separate private jets to Congressional bailout hearings, the media equated business aviation to corporate greed, recklessness, and arrogance. The business jet has opened remote corners of North America and the world to business and trade. Operators of business aircraft and employees of the business aviation industry realize that private aircraft are business tools that provide executives with speed, safety, and efficiency. A disconnect remains between what the industry offers and the public concept of business jets. News pundits attempting to assign blame for the current state of the economy readily target business aviation as the symbol of greed and avarice. The controversy over business jet usage radiates throughout the industry. Companies now reduce aircraft flights, eliminate support staff, and sell their aircraft for fear of media scrutiny. As a result, corporate aircraft orders declined and companies providing support for operations (such as flight line service facilities and maintenance/overhaul shops) endure economic hardship. Solon (2009) reports Teal Group reduced its 10-year forecast of new business aircraft deliveries by 31% from 2008's forecast. Several factors contribute to the sharp reduction, including slowing economic growth, but public scrutiny of business jet usage adds to the difficulties. The business jet industry must take action to ensure it can recover from the economic and public relations crises it faces.
  5. 5. Business Jet Approval 5 Our research proposes that by supplying facts about business jets, public perception of the industry may become more positive. Research by Murphy and Alexander (2004) demonstrated that after providing information regarding a subject to a group, the group’s knowledge and opinion changed, at least for a time. This research study adapts this method by administering a survey to two different groups of equal size. The first sample group took the survey without any supporting information enabling the project team to establish a baseline for opinions. The second sample group then read a sheet supporting business aviation prior to taking the same survey. The research team then compared how opinions differed between the two groups. This research seeks to determine if distributing printed information (i.e., fact sheets or brochures) effectively changes public perception of the industry. In this research project, we recognized two research questions. Research Question 1 (RQ1): Will public perception of business jets improve if public understands industry benefits? Research Question 2 (RQ2): Will improved perception increase support for business jets? From these two research questions, the team developed a research model as shown in Exhibit A-1. The project team then proposed two hypotheses for testing. Hypothesis 1 (H1) Public perception of the business aviation industry will improve if the public is educated
  6. 6. Business Jet Approval 6 about the benefits of the industry. Hypothesis 2 (H2) An improved perception of business aviation will increase public support for business aviation. Research Methods Sample This research project tested two propositions. First, could a fact sheet improve the public’s perception of business jets, and would an improvement in perception increase public approval for business jets? The 150 surveys completed were spread across a broad area to generate reliable data. The project team sampled five locations within the Low Country area of South Carolina and Georgia as shown in Exhibit A-2. At each location sampled, the team administered half of the surveys without any provided information to establish the baseline for public opinion. The team handed a fact sheet of industry provided information to the other half of respondents to read prior to taking the survey. Each respondent then completed a demographic information section. (Refer to Exhibit A-5 for demographic results). Fifty-five percent of the completed surveys were from female respondents. The majority of respondents (28%) ranged from 25 to 34 years of age; followed by the 35 to 44 year old group (26%). The largest portion of the sample (41%) described themselves as having some college education; the next largest portion (32%) had a college degree.
  7. 7. Business Jet Approval 7 In this research, the research team felt that it would be prudent to account for local bias in population, due to the presence of Gulfstream Aerospace Company, the area’s largest employer. The demographics results indicate approximately 51 percent of respondents indicated that he or she knew someone employed in the business aviation industry, and 48 percent indicated that they did not know anyone employed in the business jet industry. Measures The team designed the survey using five-point Likert scales (1=Strongly Agree; 5= Strongly Disagree). Pairs of statements included one assertion worded in a positive manner, and a corresponding second assertion worded negatively to validate the magnitude of the responses. A total of 16 statements were assembled to gage respondent perception and approval as shown in Table 1. Considering the recommendations made by Perreault (1975), the team redistributed the statements to control order effect bias and to maintain interest in answering the survey. To provide the respondents an example of the proper ways to indicate answers, the survey included a simple, general example for each section. Exhibit A-3 presents the survey showing the order of statements and the demographic questionnaire presented to all respondents. Exhibit A- 4 contains the industry information fact sheet presented to half of the respondents.
  8. 8. Business Jet Approval 8 Results The project team entered the data collected from the survey forms into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Project team members utilized the data sorting and basic statistical capabilities within Microsoft Excel to assemble, then graphically display the results. The first series of results produced the demographic histograms in Exhibit A-5. The team aggregated the demographic results due to time constraints for delivery of this project. However, the project team qualitatively assessed the range of data for gender, age groups, education, annual income and familiarity as representative of a normal population distribution with no outliers. Lack of easily accessible standardized metropolitan statistical census data limited the comparisons of demographics for marital status and occupation, but the most recent data provided by the United States Census Bureau (2007) estimates married persons comprise 36% of the Savannah GA metropolitan area, and 59% for both the Bryan County, Georgia and the Beaufort – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina area. The survey sampling totals reported a 50% married response, within the bounds of the census estimates. The project team proceeded to analyze the Excel data while noting the inherent limitations in extrapolating the experimental results gathered by the convenience sampling method to a target population. The battery of statements measuring H1 perception produced a series of charts arranged by pairs, available for viewing in Exhibit A-6. The team, seeking a quantitative measure for movement in perception, converted the primary pair statements from a histogram into a smooth curve. The team adjusted and scaled the axes, then superimposed the two curves for responses with no
  9. 9. Business Jet Approval 9 information sheet and responses after reading the information sheet. The team used the spreadsheet to calculate the arithmetic mean for each set of responses. The results indicate the introduction of the industry information fact sheet, representing the independent variable, moved the mean according to the polarity of the paired statements for H1 perception. For example, in the positive pair statement 1a, “Business jets increase productivity for American businesses”, the arithmetic mean moved to the right on the five-point scale, from a value of 3.17 for responses without the information sheet to 3.55 for respondents who read the information sheet first. Conversely, on the negative pair statement 1b, “Business jets waste company resources”, the mean shifted to the left, moving from 3.07 to 2.77, indicating increasing disagreement by the respondents after reading the information sheet. Qualitatively, the results on the remaining H1 perception paired statements display mixed agreement with the hypothesis. The project team surmised the lower clarity of the remaining H1 perception statements dispersed the tendencies observed in the first pairing. The team used the same procedure to convert the first pair statements measuring H2 approval from a histogram to a smooth curve to graphically illustrate any difference between the means. The results, shown in Exhibit A-7, for the first positive statement measuring H2 approval, 6a, “I favor the use of business jets”, indicated presentation of industry information to the respondents shifted the mean from 3.19 to 3.43. The negative pair statement, 6b, “I oppose the use of business jets” diminished from a mean of 2.47 to a mean of 2.21. The team noted the results of introducing the information sheet parallel the shift in mean revealed in the first pair of H1 perception statements. As with the H1 perception statements, the project team speculated that the
  10. 10. Business Jet Approval 10 remaining statements measuring approval introduced increasing levels of confusion as to the intent or the importance of the statement, dispersing the responses or even showing agreement regardless of the independent variable. Nevertheless, the results for the strongest pair statements indicate introducing industry facts positively increases H1 perception which then increases H2 approval. Conclusions The results suggest that providing the public with industry facts will positively affect their perception of the industry. With careful and strategic design, the survey results from the sample population captured the two elements of perception and approval. The following summarizes the results addressing these elements. Perception The statement in the survey that best captures the public’s perception, reads “Business jets increase productivity for American businesses.” Respondents informed of the industry information prior to taking the survey reported 21.33% less negative and 13.33% more positive than the group without the information. This supports the first hypothesis (H1): “Public perception of the business aviation industry will improve if the public is educated about the benefits of the industry.” Approval Like perception, the survey measured approval. The primary statement in the survey that captures the public’s approval of the business-jet industry, reads “I favor the
  11. 11. Business Jet Approval 11 use of business jets”. Again, respondents informed of the industry information prior to taking the survey, reported 4% less disapproval and 15% more approval than the group without the provided information. This supports the second hypothesis (H2): “An improved perception of business aviation will increase public support for business aviation.” Recommendations Findings from the survey clearly present a significant shift of perception and approval. Though not all variables were accounted for, we note that the shift occurred in response to the sole independent variable, the industry information sheet. The surveys and fact sheets were delivered to the participants selected at random. More research should be conducted to determine the best target audience for message delivery. Message delivery could be leveraged by identifying key segments of the population with a greater likelihood of reception and the ability to influence others. A second action recommends exploration of different content communicating the industry's message. The industry should evaluate the most effective content to explain the value of the business aviation industry to the target audience. The project team limited the scope of the experiment to the influence of a single fact sheet delivered by hand to respondents. The industry should evaluate the most effective vehicle to deliver this message including internet, newspaper, television, radio or magazine advertisements. Finally, the project team recommends combining and managing these three actions by creating an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program. A
  12. 12. Business Jet Approval 12 carefully executed IMC program can help the industry provide a consistent message and image to not only the target audience but also owners and regulatory bodies. Limitations Though the results seem significant, the project team noted several limitations. First, the project team did not determine sample size based upon a specified level of confidence. In addition, the project team did not estimate precision or the amount of true variability within the data set. The sampling method presented another limitation to the research. The project team used personal judgment to select respondents and administer the surveys and fact sheets. A selection procedure for the respondents based on probability would allow generalization of the findings to the target population with an acceptable degree of confidence. Per instructions, the team did not apply methods to calculate inferential statistics. Considering the qualitative assessment, the bounds of the quantitative data and the consistent shift in means observed, the project team believes the limited results confirm that with more time, the data gathered for the survey could be re-examined with the proper statistical tests to draw additional meaningful conclusions.
  13. 13. Business Jet Approval 13 References Murphy, K. P. & Alexander, P.A. (2004). Persuasion as a Dynamic, Multidimensional Process: An Investigation of Individual and Intraindividual Differences. American Educational Research Journal Summer 2004, Vol. 41, No. 2, 337-363. Perreault, Jr. W. D. (1975). Controlling Order-Effect Bias. The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Winter 1975-1976), 544-551. Solon, D. (2009, May 11). A Buffeting for Small Jets. The New York Times. Retrieved from _r=1 United States Census Bureau. (2007). American Fact Finder, 2005-2007 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates. Retrieved May 14, 2009, from ds_name=ACS_2007_3YR_G00_&_lang=en&_ts=260416104522
  14. 14. Business Jet Approval 14 Appendix Table 1 Survey Pairs
  15. 15. Business Jet Approval 15 Exhibit A-1 Research Model Exhibit A-2 Sampling Locations
  16. 16. Business Jet Approval 16 Exhibit A-3 Survey Form
  17. 17. Business Jet Approval 17 Exhibit A-4 Industry Info Sheet
  18. 18. Business Jet Approval 18 Exhibit A-5 Demographics
  19. 19. Business Jet Approval 19 Exhibit A-6 Results for H1 Perception
  20. 20. Business Jet Approval 20
  21. 21. Business Jet Approval 21 Exhibit A-7 Results for H2 Approval