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Editorial: Waving the Flag

August 10, 2012  By Matt Nicholls

Don’t rock the boat. Don’t blow your own horn. Get ’er done and get on with it.

Don’t rock the boat. Don’t blow your own horn. Get ’er done and get on with it.

Yes, humility is an outstanding quality and the above phrases are the perfect way to describe how many Canadian companies do business. Unlike some of their American counterparts who aggressively drive marketing engines to the max, sending out an endless array of tweets and tomes on every little crumb of corporate crusading, Canadian firms often take a more strategic, calculated approach.

Generally, it’s a sound strategy and as editors, we appreciate it. We don’t tend to get too excited over a press release explaining in detail how company X is attending a trade show – it’s just not news. Do something significant, however, and we’ll definitely listen.

Humility is admirable and can contribute to the formation of a strong corporate culture. It can also be argued, however, that there’s a time to stand up and trumpet your successes to the masses, not only as an individual organization but as an industry as well. Such positive recognition brings with it influence that can eventually lead to enhanced political awareness – something all aviation organizations and industries strive to attain.


This is certainly true of the Canadian helicopter industry, which is often swimming upstream in political battles with its fixed-wing counterparts in discussions involving regulatory issues, flight and duty time debates and more. As Helicopter Association of Canada president/CEO Fred Jones has shared on a number of occasions in his participation at annual roundtables conducted by Helicopters and in his back-page column, the industry faces real challenges in establishing its influence.

It was a point echoed in virtually every committee meeting I attended at the HAC conference this spring as well. There’s definite frustration in getting the association’s message out there and conveying it to those with real influence. A more proactive PR stance to highlight industry concerns would go a long way in gaining traction with those who can bring about change.

A PR push would also be beneficial for individual operators. The helicopter industry is the economic engine that drives Canada’s resource-based economy. Helicopters play an essential role in the activities of resource-driven firms and other important Canadian organizations. So, what would happen if a blade didn’t turn in Canada for 24 hours? How about 48? A week? How would these organizations survive? How would the companies that rely on these companies survive? What about the sick, those who are lost, those in need? The ramifications would be huge, resulting in significant drops in productivity, economic trauma, and sadly, lives lost.

Of course, the helicopter industry is highlighted in the mainstream media – but usually for the wrong reasons. The ongoing Ornge investigation in Ontario is the perfect example. This is clearly a case of political and organizational mismanagement; it is not an aviation issue per se. But it does cast a pall over the entire industry. This also occurs when a helicopter is involved in a crash – it’s front-page news.

“The problem with the media, for the most part, is it looks for sensationalism,” says Peter Barratt, co-owner/operations manager with B.C.’s West Coast Helicopters. “But what is sensationalism? I find it’s very difficult to get hold of anyone who is real in the media.”

Jones says he hears good news stories, through the association, on a regular basis but it just scratches the surface in terms of the good work that is done. “Unfortunately, it’s part of the culture in our industry in some ways. Those things like taking someone off the ice when they’ve broken through . . . that’s what helicopters do. It just gets done and the world doesn’t know about the good news stories the way they should.”

The benefits of sharing good news stories are many. It can raise a firm’s profile and show potential clients its skilled execution and capabilities. It can ignite the passion of ambitious young employees to join a progressive company, or attract qualified employees from other firms. Positive stories also create a sense of pride within an operation, enhancing corporate culture. In short, getting the word out is worth the effort.

At Helicopters, we’re always seeking to share the very best of the industry – positive news about operators and individuals nationwide. We understand the “get ’er done” mentality, but there’s nothing wrong with giving credit where credit is due. In the end, it’s more than blowing your own horn a little bit – it’s simply good business.


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