Think about all the repair and maintenance technology it takes to keep the average automobile running for 5-7 years… Then, consider the types of innovations required to keep aircraft flying for upwards of 30 years! If you’ve travelled recently, it’s a pretty good chance the plane you just hopped off was born in the early 80’s.
Well guess what? Just like the automotive ‘aftermarket’ industry, there’s an entire community of smart companies dedicated to making sure these airplanes stay flying longer, more efficiently, and as safely as they did the day they first rolled off the assembly line.
Last week Waggener Edstrom Worldwide partnered up with Aviation Week to produce the aerospace industry’s first Marketing 2.0 workshop and panel discussion at AvWeek’s Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Americas Conference in Atlanta. With almost 10,000 people from more than 60 countries in attendance, the MRO conference takes the top slot as the largest annual aerospace trade event in the U.S.
I had the pleasure of hanging out with some of these companies’ communicators as a panel member to discuss some of the challenges associated with navigating a quickly evolving social and digital media world as the industry faces some steep cuts in budget and resources. Here are some of the thoughts discussed during the panel.
Where do we begin? A Point of View
Panel member Pedro Dias, brand manager at Portugal-based TAP Maintenance & Engineering positioned the gathering’s challenge perfectly, “I love the aerospace industry because has some of the most amazing technology in the world… the problem is we just don’t know how to talk about it.”
We had worn out almost three pages of flip board paper with attendees’ questions when one attendee asked, “Where do we even begin!?!”
I offered up that if the point of communications – especially in a social media context – is to create vibrant conversation about any topic of interest, then the central task for marketing and public relations teams is to generate a solid point of view.
A point of view is a beautiful thing because intelligent perspective always breeds intelligent conversation.
Sharing a point of view is simply sharing an intelligent perspective. It creatively engages the mind and challenges the way industry and people think about how or why we do business the way we do. Intelligent perspective arrives as a dual process of listening as well as creatively generating points to share. And communicators who invest the time, energy, and resources on generating a point of view move their companies away from simply disseminating information about a product or service into a place where they are engaged in intelligent conversation.
To what end?
Host and moderator Joe D’Andrea, Director of Marketing, Communications & Sales Development at Aviation Week, suggested that communicators try to focus on success metrics rather than traditional ideas of return on investment. Not everything is measured in dollars.
I strongly believe that good communications metrics always involve a combination of quantitative and qualitative evaluation. And when a Waggener Edstrom team member asks, “What’s the business problem we’re trying to solve?” (And they will.) the answer often arrives in the format, “something is affecting our sales,” where sales represent the quantitative aspects and the something is typically qualitative.
Defining what success looks like at the beginning of a campaign also helps with tactical focus. Strong success metrics can define communications tactics, eliminating what is unnecessary for accomplishing the task. Do we really need a news release? Is Twitter the right social media platform for this campaign? Which reporters are really the most influential in this space?
The final touch on a campaign is merchandizing the results to the right people. This audience-specific exercise should be forward-focused. An insightful and analytical recap actually benefits both the client and the communications organization. Make a list of all the people your team is trying to win over for future investment or partnership in the communications program and let ‘em know what a great job your team did!