14:05 PM

‘Who runs this account?’ Meet the face behind your favorite @FlyTPA posts

The tweets and Instagram posts bring surprising breaks in the day, unexpected nuggets of comedy coming from an airport, of all places.

Be it a play off the Art Basel Banana, a brilliant spin off of a popular meme or a poem about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl, each joke or witty quip brings delight to Tampa International Airport’s most adoring social media fans who demand to know more.

“Whoever runs this account I love you,” tampaentertainment commented.

“Who runs this page!!! I need a face!!!” wrote _jarrettjhodge_.

“Give this person a raise,” tweeted @Q105Geno.

“We, the people, need to see the face behind your social media @flytpa,” demanded saltandsandcottages.

Well, here she is, folks.

Meet Ashley.

From appetizer samplers to airport marketing

Ashley Iaccarino’s fast-track to TPA success began with her keen attention to detail. A regular who frequented a Tampa Chili’s where Ashley worked was surprised when she remembered his favorite order: The Triple Dipper.

The customer was impressed, and after chatting with her about her dreams and aspirations, he introduced her to his friends at the Economic Club of Tampa. That led to meeting other VIPs, including then-Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman.

Those who met Ashley – a young University of Florida graduate with a strong work ethic who longed for a career in public relations – wanted to help her. So when she applied for a 2017 internship in the Communications Department at Tampa International Airport, she had excellent references to go along with her writing and photo skills, as well as a fluency in Spanish.

She got the temporary job. And while managing social media wasn’t her first choice as a post-college career path, she took to it quickly and made it her own. Ashley brought a fresh and funny voice to TPA’s social accounts, quickly building a cult following on Instagram and attracting more followers to Facebook and Twitter. Within a year, TPA hired Ashley as a full-time coordinator, and only a couple years after that, she moved up to a manager position.

Ashley’s duties extend beyond cracking jokes and creating strategic messaging on TPA’s social media channels. She also heads up TPA’s Air Service Digest email designed to promote airlines and new routes, manages the organization’s internal TPA TV platform, writes news stories and travel pieces for the newsletter and does on-camera interviews in Spanish, among many other things.

Ambitious and efficient, Ashley is always looking for new projects and tasks to conquer. But she never forgets her loyal @flytpa followers and is constantly coming up with new ways to make them smile. During a year like 2020, the comic relief was clearly a welcome reprieve.

In May, while many were in quarantine and travel was near all-time lows, Ashley took a break from COVID-19 safety messages and photoshopped rapper Drake’s hair and beard onto a plane, tagging it #DrakesOnAPlane.

“Seriously, why doesn’t this person run the entire airport,” said eddiegrimessuperagent.

Memes in a time of COVID: A Love Story

Ashley grew up the youngest of three siblings in West Palm Beach, where she once won a “Got Milk” essay contest in second grade that landed her in her school newsletter. Her drive to excel extended through high school and college, and after getting a job at Chili’s in Gainesville at age 17 she set and achieved a goal for herself to have a certain amount in her savings by age 20. After graduating with a degree in public relations, she didn’t want to move back home so she settled on a midway point, transferring to a Chili’s in Tampa.

Her six years as a waitress taught her some valuable skills that serve her well today.

“It really taught me how to know my audience and understand when to leave things alone or when to keep chatting,” Ashley said. “I learned a lot about human behavior, and also multi-tasking. I’ve always worked pretty quickly. I don’t like to leave things lingering.”

While her social media voice comes naturally as someone on the cusp between Gen Z and Millennial, figuring out what works best for the various TPA social accounts has been “a lot of trial and error,” she said. But heading into 2020, Ashley had a good idea of who her audiences were. While she pulled back on posting as often during a time of crisis and COVID-19 fears, she still managed to help grow TPA’s social media following by 10 percent and increased engagements by 25 percent.

Her biggest growth and most active followers are on Instagram, a platform that allows her personality to shine the most because its users expect more entertainment than info. She balances both to deliver messaging with a twist, building TPA’s brand among young and savvy customers. She gets her inspiration from other funny brands on social media, such as Totino’s Pizza Rolls, Burger King and Chipotle. (Ashley also loves food.)

TPA’s Instagram followers are constantly heaping praise for “whoever runs this account” in the comments section. And the feeling is mutual.

“It’s the best part of my job,” Ashley said. “It’s almost like having a friendship with people I don’t know. I get to be creative and have fun in my posts knowing they’ll appreciate the humor. That’s so cool to me.”