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Dear Des,

In your final speech at the World Cargo Symposium, you mentioned that one of the aims of IATA this year is to raise the profile of the industry. Not only would this help governments and authorities understand what a critical industry it is to commerce and the economy, giving it greater clout to prevent further punitive taxes and legislation, but it would also help the industry attract talent.

Luckily for everyone, UPS is doing a fine job of spreading the logistics message. But you also called on your trade press to help get the word out.
The Loadstar doesn’t speak for the whole press but it is true to say that our fortunes are bound with yours. If it’s a boost for the industry, it’s a boost for us. We, too, live and die by your volumes, yields and margins. 
But for us to help, IATA needs to meet us half way. Despite being the single voice of the airline industry, IATA still holds invitation-only meetings. “We are members, why can’t we attend?” one airline grumbled recently. By extension, that means us too. Our job is to inform the industry, and, we hope, give a competitive advantage to those that read us. Why not allow us to report on what you are doing?
It is also a well-known fact that organisations such as airlines and airports, which are serious about cargo, employ a cargo team, which often includes a cargo press officer. IATA doesn’t have a dedicated cargo PR. Whenever there’s an article in the newspapers talking about the environmental evil that is air cargo, why doesn’t IATA respond? Why does it not present the facts that we all know (only 2% of global CO₂ emissions, most freight flies bellyhold etc etc)? Other industries with far, far worse credentials do a far, far better job at defending themselves.
IATA needs to be more active, open, and responsive. Can I, as people have asked, put the WCS presentations up on the blog? No response. Can we have an interview? No. The press were not invited to the WCS dinner (or rather, they were, at a cost of $118, and anyone who knows the publishing industry will know that this price goes beyond the wildest dreams of hack dinner expenses). And this was despite the fact that the majority of us had splashed out for a stand at the event. I am sure I don’t even need to mention the farcical press conference with Giovanni Bisignani. 
Aside from the closed shop of IATA, though, may I suggest that you probably have more ability to reach an audience than you realise? The industry needs to be flagged to consumers and businesses. I often hear from forwarders that they want to be in the mainstream press. Well, let’s take a look at it. In the UK, the leading broadsheets sell fewer than half a million copies a day. IATA members carry, on average, 4.3 million  – captive – passengers a day, who will read an inflight magazine. That’s business people, and consumers. This is something your members can influence. Where better to read about what’s in the belly of an aircraft than when that belly is right under your feet? When you might catch a glimpse of a ULD waiting at an airport? You have the ability to make logistics tangible right there – and in a cheaper way than UPS. 

And one more suggestion to your members. Don’t make it a marketing article. Don’t give it the hard sell. Get it written by professional journalists, who know how to make a potentially dull subject into a valid, human-interest one. There are some great stories in this industry and we’d love to tell them. But it’s you that have got the platform.

The Loadstar

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  • Tom Pleasant

    March 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    I couldn't agree more. IATA's attitude to cargo is all wrong. I feel for the cargo team there; they must be hugely frustrated.

    Transparency is key as is open communication, especially with the press.

    And as for Bisignani's press conference, sprung on us out of nowhere, it simply repeated all the statistics he had just told us and his answers always referred back to passenger. Roll on Tony Tyler, I say.

  • Ted

    March 24, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Good luck! Nice, constructive and positive. I have experienced the same issues as you did and have been far less diplomatic about it. The end result has so far been the same. Stonewalling and silence. They are untouchable in their own mind, far more dependent and accountable to whimsical DG, HR and marketing heads than the industry. Having worked there a good few years, it drives me mad to see opportunity after missed opportunity to do good and not lift a finger.

  • Alex Lennane

    March 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks for your comments. I think you've got it in a nutshell, Ted – there are so many frustrating missed opportunities and IATA is not, apparently accountable to the industry. As Tom said, it must be very frustrating for the cargo team…