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Day One: It’s been a good start for IATA. At this point we can safely say that yes, Des has pulled it off. And Tony Tyler, who gave an impeccable speech that even the most die-hard IATA critic couldn’t fault, was supportive in a way that was lacking under the considerably less charming Bisignani. Not only did he give real credence to cargo, but he made the intelligent point that the story of the air cargo value chain is one best told by a united front. We all have a stake in air cargo’s success.

There were all sorts of snippets of gossip and amusement from the first day. And The Loadstar will cover it in due course. But it is still early days, so let’s be serious.

There is one headline figure.

(For those of you that are in an office, not Kuala Lumpur – and yes, it’s a big expense to be here that one suspects the larger companies fail to fully grasp – there was interactive voting. The Loadstar will publish the results.)

So what did the voters say? 84% of delegates don’t know or understand what Gacag does.  Which is a bit shocking (for those of us that have heard of Gacag, anyway. For everyone else, of course, it’s totally unremarkable.)

As part of the trade press, you’ve got to ask whether  it was our fault that no one has heard about this great industry initiative. And the answer is, yes, in part.

So why hasn’t Gacag got its impressive story out?

One of the things The Loadstar hears most often about the trade press is that everyone writes the same stuff, much of it based on press releases. And, to be frank, it’s just boring.

I’m not suggesting that Gacag or its press releases are boring. (But they could certainly be juicier.)  One of the problems is that Mr Steen and his colleagues are very effective communicators, in the sense that they know exactly how to respond in a corporate way –  framed by PR speak, which invariably takes all the narrative out of a story. And it leaves those parts of the industry that are not right at the top, rather uninspired.

Gacag is not alone, incidentally. The corporate sector in most industries has systematically removed the heart of its press, and therefore its usefulness,  by allowing the PRs to take over, by insisting on an anodyne corporate message.

Gacag is a great initiative. Its members have done good work and it deserves to be recognised. But Gacag’s actions currently have little relevance to members beyond the executive level and the wider supply chain. Why? Because it’s message, which is necessarily decided by the few on behalf of the many (having just one voice is critical to industry sustainability at present) has not been properly conveyed. How does Gacag’s decisions affect those in operations? What does it all mean to those who aren’t CEOs and CCOs? Why is what Gacag doing relevant to the wider industry?

The Loadstar has beaten the drum about transparency for some time – several delegates guessed the provenance of the question to Gacag about transparency.

At the risk of boring you all again, a trade press can only be good when the industry offers proper transparency. We’re not here to re-write press releases – the corporate sector is perfectly able to disseminate that information by itself, along with its PRs.

One of our duties is to help one part of the industry communicate with and educate the other parts.  And the best way to do that is not to be drip-fed limited, restricted news; the same interviews, same old, same old…  You’ve got to trust us. You’ve got to let us see the workings, go behind the scenes so that we can construct an interesting and relevant narrative. You’ve got to let us make the decision on the best way to tell a story. That’s what good journalists do.

Which is exactly why meetings need to be open. We’re not there to trap you, to create pitfalls.  Don’t be frightened. We’re there to serve the industry. And if you allowed us to write what we see, rather than what we are told, it would have the added benefit of allowing us to differentiate ourselves; different publications will notice different things. We might even be able to make dry subjects interesting. Trust us.  

We’re failing you, because you are failing us.

More later from KL…

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