“Help me,” is essentially what the email said. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but the message was simple, straight-forward, and common. How do I get the word out?
Because I’m a sucker for a pro-aviation reader who reaches out for help, I answered the email, which led to another email, and ultimately a series of phone calls. Without boring you with a line by line replay of the discussions, let me give you the short version of what I passed along.
Step 1: To get the word out effectively, you have to know what the word is. Said another way, if you want to promote something, you have to know what it is you’re trying to promote.
If your goal is to promote your business, your product, or the services you have on the market, that’s one thing. But if you’re trying to sway public opinion in your favor, that’s another mission entirely. And if you’re hope is to turn an anti-aviation administration into a pro-aviation administration, as we did here in Winter Haven, Fla., your message and your method will be very different, indeed.
Step 2: Once you’ve established what you are trying to accomplish, define what you want to say in very specific terms. You don’t want to spend a lot of money promoting the fact that you have a flight school. Anyone can do that. You need to put your effort into promoting exactly what makes your flight school (or engine shop, or whatever) different, and more desirable to a segment of the community than the other flight school (or engine shop, or whatever) across the field, or across the county. In short, what makes you special? Write it down, work it out, and prepare yourself to be able to explain those strengths quickly, in 30 seconds or less.
Politicians, writers, and a select few other weird professionals call this the “elevator speech.” It’s the quick, punchy, straight-to-the-point presentation you do when you had no idea you’d have the opportunity to give a sales presentation – and then the opportunity presents itself.
Step 3: Write it down. Write it down carefully, working out the language you want to use, and critiquing what you’ve written mercilessly. You’ll do this step over and over again. In fact, you may do this step repeatedly for as long as you’re in business. You see, you don’t just want to make your case, you want to make your case as powerfully, clearly, and succinctly as possible. And you want the person on the other end of the communication to come away feeling as if they’ve learned something important in the process.
Stay positive throughout this whole effort, by the way. Don’t tell your potential listeners why the other guy doesn’t measure up. Tell us how and why you do!
Step 4: Consider the multitude of ways you can communicate your message. You could hire Ron Howard to shoot a featurette that runs on movie screens across the continent, of course. But most of us don’t have that kind of cash laying around. So take this aspect of your plan seriously. Be thoughtful, creative, and consider listening to people who do this sort of thing for a living if you want to truly maximize your bang-for-the-buck potential.
What can you afford to do consistently to sell your message? A big splashy full-page ad might look good, but if you can only do it one time and you run it in a publication with minimal circulation, or one that’s focused on the wrong market, you might have just wasted your ad budget on a one-shot deal that provide no real return on investment for you.
Step 5: Implement your plan, implement your plan, implement your plan. I may not have stressed this sufficiently in this short post, but did I mention that you should enthusiastically, emphatically, and regularly implement your plan? Well, if I wasn’t throughly clear on that aspect please excuse me. Implement your plan.
Step 6: Be flexible. The world changes and you have to be ready to change with it. As an example, if you’re promoting yourself as the best flight school in the tri-county area, yet you don’t offer sport pilot instruction or rentals because you don’t believe in the validity of the sport pilot certificate – stop wasting your energy and your advertising budget. You’ve missed the boat. The market has passed you by and left you with one of two options to consider – catch up to the train that whipped past you 6 years ago when sport pilot was introduced, or accept that you are in the waning days of your professional existence.
Remember, you don’t have to like the market, or the public perception of general aviation, or the administration that oversees your airport – but you have to work within the guidelines that currently exist. So as soon as you’re ready, pick up a pencil, grab a yellow legal pad, and start with Step 1.
There’s plenty of help out there for those who want to get in the game. And there’s success to be had for those who embrace the idea of becoming truly pro-active and making a serious attempt at controlling their own destiny. Sometimes the process starts with an email, or a phone call, or a casual discussion. It doesn’t really matter when you get right down to it. As long as the process starts. And any one of us can do that much.
Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.