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Come Together Now – AUVSI XPONENTIAL Shows Us How

Early mornings. Late nights. 14,000-steps a day. Lots of time just standing on your feet, trapped in a booth, talking to whoever shows interest. Working in a city that’s a current hot spot for COVID. Many restaurants closed. 

What’s not to love?

Greteman Group colleague and energizer-bunny Samantha “Sam” Stinson recently returned from a week in Atlanta at AUVSI XPONENTIAL. She’s already counting down the days until the show returns next year in Orlando. 

Her enthusiasm goes beyond being a young professional who hasn’t logged enough show miles to be road weary. It’s the marketer in her. She understands connection and that there is absolutely nothing under the big blue sky that builds relationships like meeting face to face. It shouldn’t surprise us. Business aviation – commercial, too – is built upon that simple but profound fact.

Controlled Chaos

Samantha Stinson providing trade show support to Vantis at AUVSI XPONENTIAL

Sam’s on-the-ground support for client Vantis UAS reinforces the value of simply being there. Catching that the new booth was about to get installed the wrong way, corrected just as workers were about to cut the carpet. Securing editorial coverage that simply wouldn’t have happened without her persistent, personal nudges and cajoling. 

Roughly 500 exhibitors made XPO Hall at the Georgia World Congress Center a virtual nirvana for tech nerds, futurists and businesses looking to lasso the next rising star. Emerging technologies and early-stage companies representing unmanned, autonomous solutions presented a brave, new world. Pandemic protocols – distancing, masks, sanitizer everywhere – helped people assemble as safely as possible so they could get down to business. AUVSI XPONENTIAL showed how to do it right.

Accelerating Innovation and Adoption

Vantis is building a highway in the sky with its statewide network, and Sam never tires of sharing the benefits of its beyond visual line of sight access. “Ask me about BVLOS,” she says with twinkling eyes. And she means it.

But she wasn’t just disseminating information. She was absorbing massive quantities of it, too. Keynote speakers and educational sessions. Facilitated networking opportunities. Experiencing other booths. Engaging with pioneers as passionate as she is, feeding off their enthusiasm for the changes coming. 

Trade shows offer not just the opportunity to be seen. They give you the chance to see, too. From now through September 10, attendees can access content on demand through the online, interactive portal provided by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). There’s everything from detect-and-avoid technology and AI-based cybersecurity systems to handheld touch controllers and UAV hydrogen fuel cell manufacturing.

trade shows like AUVSI XPONENTIAL allow you to get in front of your customers

The State of North Dakota took the bold step of investing in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) utilization and commercialization because it sees the jobs it will create and the economic development it will spur. Its BVLOS network positions the state to become the epicenter of commercial UAS activity. It is the first such program of its scale. Ask Sam. She’ll tell you all about it. Even better, reach out to Vantis directly.

If you’re on the fence about upcoming trade shows and whether they’re wise with COVID still among us. Well, I say, be smart. Follow the directives of the Centers for Disease Control. Do your part to keep yourself well – and the economy humming. Our clients still have trade shows on their schedules. They know their value. The connections you make through them are beyond our line of sight. But we know they’re big.

Greteman Group Names Media Strategist

WICHITA, Kan. – Wichita-based marketing agency, Greteman Group, has created the position of media strategist and named Ashley Yearout to the role. In this position, Yearout will guide the agency and its clients in the deployment of strategic media campaigns.

Yearout will represent Greteman Group clients including, but not limited to, FlightSafety International, Clay Lacy Aviation, King Aerospace, JetHQ, Vantis, Piedmont Airlines, Aviation Partners and USAIG. She brings more than two decades of experience and a proven passion for delivering maximum returns for clients, who called her organizational approach “invaluable” and “unparalleled.”

“You have to be quick to keep up with today’s turbine-powered pace of media innovation,” says Ashley Bowen Cook, Greteman Group vice president and brand director. “You also have to be tenacious in tracking down and aggregating large amounts of information. Ashley does it all with grace and professionalism.”

Previously, Yearout garnered agency experience supporting both national-level and local clients at Sullivan Higdon & Sink (now Signal Theory), Jajo and Platform Advertising. She earned her communications degree from Kansas State University.

“Paid media constantly evolves, adding increased measurement and value,” says Yearout. “I like seeing clients’ eyes light up when they learn how we can laser-target audiences today and engage at key decision points along the buying journey. I feel very at home at Greteman Group and happy to continue advancing its strong return for clients.”

Greteman Group has developed an international reputation as an aviation-specialty marketing agency based in Wichita, Kan. – the Air Capital. Leading aircraft manufacturers, flight support, aftermarket services, fractional ownership, insurance, in-flight Wi-Fi, regional airlines and airport analytics have entrusted their brands to Greteman Group. Clients include FlightSafety International, Wichita Eisenhower National Airport, Clay Lacy Aviation, JetHQ, USAIG, King Aerospace, EPIC Fuels, Signature Flight Support, Vantis, Piedmont Airlines and Aviation Partners. It also supports causes and clients such as the Tallgrass Film Association, Mark Arts, the City of Wichita, Wichita Water Partners, AGC Kansas, GLMV Architecture and MKEC Engineering. The firm is a founding member of the Wichita Aero Club and a longstanding member of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). Since its founding in 1989, this certified women-owned business enterprise (WBE) has developed a team of purpose-driven pros.

A Return to NBAA-BACE in 2021

The 2021 National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition returns to Las Vegas after its 2020 move to virtual in response to the coronavirus pandemic. How will our industry’s most important U.S. trade show look this year?

Let’s consider the new event space, safe travel and what you need to do to prepare.

NBAA-BACE Moves Into the West Hall

The Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) has made some major changes since our last visit. An additional 1.4 million square feet of space has been added to the West Hall, expanding amenities, meeting rooms, outdoor spaces and more. NBAA-BACE exhibitors will be housed entirely in the West Hall, making it easier for attendees to explore and visit more of our exhibitors.

We anticipate another change at NBAA-BACE that attendees – whether welcome or not – have likely grown accustomed to: measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

LVCC outlined detailed safety protocols for NBAA-BACE to comply “with the highest standards of safety, hygiene, cleanliness and quality.” The Center said it was closely monitoring state and local mandates as well as guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure it and NBAA-BACE exhibitors and attendees comply with the latest information in public health regarding COVID-19. Protocols include making hand-washing facilities and sanitizing systems easily accessible as well as recommendations or mandates regarding masks and social distancing.

Beyond guidelines for attendees, LVCC is also a Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) Star Facility, an accreditation in gold standard cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention.

Similarly, Henderson Executive Airport is certified Safety 1st Clean by the National Air Transportation Association, which provides “guidance on facility cleaning, disinfecting and operations in response” to COVID-19. Federal law also requires all people to wear a mask when at the airport.

Speaking of COVID-19… Plan for Safe Travel

Our clients saw an increase in desire to travel by private aircraft in 2020, which is continuing into 2021. The industry was not entirely surprised knowing business aviation has always offered a safe, time-saving alternative to commercial airline travel. During the coronavirus pandemic, business aviation’s appeal grew to include its more contained environment and fewer touchpoints.

Travelers boarding commercial flights, however, do not need to panic. Airports across the country, including our departure point at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, are implementing COVID-19 mitigation measures in accordance with federal laws and state mandates.

Before we take off for NBAA-BACE, we will check in via the airline’s mobile app, show up early to complete a health screening and wear face masks in the airport and onboard our aircraft.

Time to Get Ready

As NBAA exclaimed earlier this year, “It’s on.” Exhibitors, who’ve been preparing for the show since June, are nearly complete in their preparations. Attendees, speakers and sponsors should take advantage of the next six to eight weeks to finalize their own show plans, including announcing their attendance, planning any meetings and prepping assets and press releases.

Announce Attendance. Activate your personal and business social networks to announce who from your team will attend the show. Ensure you give plenty of lead-up to the October 12 event, so your audiences know to pay attention – or schedule a meeting with you while you’re there.

Plan Meetings. For individuals and businesses who aren’t exhibiting, finding a private space to meet with clients, partners and vendors can be difficult. LVCC’s latest renovations open up more than 200 meeting rooms for use.

PR and Media Outreach. Are you announcing a new product or service? Introducing new leadership? Whatever messages you or your business need to make in the coming weeks are ideal for distribution at NBAA-BACE 2021 – but you need to plan now. Editors are already filling show dailies with stories.

What else do you need? Greteman Group assists multiple aviation clients with their NBAA action plans, delivering press releases to our extensive aviation media database and building campaigns surrounding the event. Are you ready to get ready? Let’s talk.

Wichita Aero Club Wins Again

Today’s Wichita Aero Club presentation delivered just what our group of aviation enthusiasts needed. Textron Aviation CEO Ron Draper charmed and cajoled the capacity crowd at Rolling Hills Country Club. He made his intention known upfront, saying, “No one’s leaving today until at least one person buys an airplane.”

Draper had us laughing early and often. And listening closely.

He started with how he came to Wichita in the first place. Draper said he interviewed with 20 companies after leaving the U.S. Army as a Blackhawk pilot and company commander. His love of aviation led him to choose Cessna. His tearful wife said at the time: “Just promise me we won’t retire in Kansas.” Life being what it is, they fell in love with the Air Capital and have no intentions of leaving. Yay, Wichita. I love it when that happens.

Big Changes for Legacy Brands

Draper talked the crowd through Textron’s product lineup, which he proudly touted as the industry’s largest, and the company’s contribution to the state as one of its largest exporters. For a professed “airplane guy,” Draper likes marketing, too. He shared several examples of what his team’s done to instill confidence in flying again after emerging from a global shutdown. You can view their A Different Sky Awaits campaign here. He said they used the pandemic’s downtime to work on continued product development, revitalizing the corporate culture and inspiring team members.

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Reitmeyer, Visual Media Group

Leisure travel revved up first with people, still unsure about commercial travel, turning to charter, then buying used aircraft, then new. Textron actually had a good fourth quarter in 2020, he said. He used that to segue into highlights of Textron’s lineup: the new flagship Citation Longitude, CJ4 upgrades, King Air 360 and 260 enhancements, almost-certified Skycourier and the latest addition to the Beechcraft family: the clean-sheet, Denali single-engine turboprop. The prototype should fly later this year. He lamented that they’re a couple of years away to entry to service as customer interest is high. He spoke, too, of Textron’s growing support for the military, particularly the T-6 trainer and AT-6 light attack aircraft.

Eyes lit up when he showed us the highly coveted, retro-styled 75th anniversary option for the Bonanza G36. It’s inspired by former founder and CEO Olive Ann Beech and her signature blue (adopted on the personal advice of Oleg Cassini). The plane delivers in 2022, a fitting tribute to a glass-ceiling-busting woman. Over her 50-year career, she helped grow the company from 10 to 10,000 employees. We can never hear enough stories about that woman.

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Reitmeyer, Visual Media Group

A Skyway to Recovery

Draper came with numerous charts and graphs that helped him make his case that flight activity is rebounding and aircraft utilization is up. New entrants to the market, historically about 10%, he said is now double. Programs such as WSU Tech’s new flight school are helping to grow our pool of skilled labor. Supply chain concerns and an aging workforce continue to be headwinds to overcome. Listening to Draper, though, I felt anything but defeated. Smart minds are on it. We can do this.

Crisis Communications: Plan Before Crises Strike

Imagine the unimaginable. Those things you most dread for your business. Thinking about everything from bankruptcy and criminal wrongdoing to a product failure or deaths are not a pleasant exercise. But every now and then, you need to go through it.

How would you respond? Do you have a plan in place to guide you through these possibly frantic, assuredly emotional times?

crisis communications team

If the answer is no, or if you haven’t reviewed your plan for a while, here are some suggestions to help in creating or updating your process.

Download Our Crisis Communications Checklist >>

Know Who Does What

Designate a media point-person to communicate directly with editors and reporters. This individual fields requests for information, provides accurate and timely updates, sets up interviews as needed with management and company experts, and monitors coverage.

Identify your spokesperson. This may or may not be the point-person. This person should be prepared to appear on-camera and in print as the authoritative voice of the company. For major crises, this really should be your CEO. His or her involvement signifies that you take this seriously and, from the top on down, are working toward resolution. Assigning one person streamlines the communications process and limits the possibility of misquotes, inconsistencies and erroneous information.

Instruct all staff to refrain from talking to the media without company knowledge and approval. Any media questions need to be referred to the point-person.

Establish a designated crisis team and contacts for each member. Determine now who needs to be involved in decision-making during a crisis. Determine how this team will interact – meeting physically or virtually through conference calls, texts or emails.

Anticipate Key Lines of Questioning

Your plan should include figuring out what to say, when to say it and to whom. Start by thinking through the questions likely to come your way.

  • Were people hurt? Was there loss of life?
  • Will victims recover?
  • How did this happen?
  • Why weren’t precautions taken to prevent this from happening?
  • What is being done about it?
  • How is it dangerous and how dangerous is it?
  • What is the actual damage?
  • When will the situation be under control?
  • Can it happen again?
  • What steps are you taking to ensure this won’t happen again?

Plan Now for Success Later

Speed is key. And nothing is more convenient or faster than a website. We highly recommend setting up a dark site that can be quickly, efficiently activated when needed. This can be a completely separate website or simply a page or section on your existing site. Once activated, this prebuilt website serves as the dedicated, go-to source for crisis information and updates, while still allowing your existing site to function as before.

A dark site helps you control the conversation, squelch rumors and untruths, gain trust through transparency, and keep the situation from blowing up out of proportion. If you don’t fill the information vacuum created by a crisis, others will. Your homepage should note the situation and direct readers to the (previously dark) site for the latest information. I can hear you now. Why point out bad news on your homepage? It’s the right thing to do. If you ignore the crisis on your website, it appears you are stonewalling, hiding something or treating the crisis lightly.

The site should be designed using a content-management system (CMS) such as WordPress, so your communications team has full control in making updates. It should include a brief, but straightforward overview statement about what has happened. This could come from the CEO. Include statements of compassion for everyone affected. Talk about the steps you’re taking now and what you’ll be doing next. Share media contacts.

Guide the public to contact forms where they can submit questions not answered on the site, or, if appropriate, where they could make a donation to help victims. Include a Twitter feed on the dark site’s main page, and use Twitter for minute-by-minute (if needed) updates. Include sign-up forms if you plan to send email/text-message updates.

Practice with Your Spokesperson

Don’t let the urgencies of the crisis or the fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from talking to the media. If you evade them, you seem to be hiding something.

You can help overcome this natural reticence through training. Even if your spokesperson is used to being in front of a camera and interviewed, dedicated crisis media training builds confidence and skills. In a crisis, the tenor of questioning changes. Reporters want answers. Now. They may view you in a negative light. They may try to get you to speculate, assign fault, say more than you want, or respond to a question you can’t answer.

Remember, nothing is off-the-record. Your smallest, off-the-cuff statement can be magnified and used as a leading point. Draft possible questions and suggested answers. Go over them verbally in front of a video camera. Lob the questions to your spokesperson. Mix them up. Throw in random ones. Play the answers back and talk about what went right – and the responses that fell short. Practice can help your spokesperson remain calm and not go on the defensive with an aggressive reporter.

The Crisis Takes Priority

Once a crisis strikes, there is no time to put together a plan. Responding quickly, compassionately and humanely becomes your number-one priority alongside doing the right things to avoid something similar in the future. Plan now. Know your protocols. And pray you never need to activate them.

This column first appeared in the April 11, 2019, issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.