Will Communications Improve at Eclipse?

By Robert Mark on March 25th, 2007

Andrew H. Broom and I don’t know each other. We’ve never met and I don’t owe him any money, nor he any to me. At least none that I recall. 

What we do have in common is an infatuation with an incredible airplane concept and the need to tell a good story as accurately as possible. Broom is the director of public relations at Eclipse Aviation Corporation in Albuquerque.

Eclipse has enjoyed major press coverage – not all of it good – almost from the day the concept of a Very Light Jet (VLJ) became public nearly 10 years ago. Love them or not, most VLJ publicity today still points to Eclipse as the vanguard of the movement, something no one else can claim.

Andrew and I spoke the other day about communications and the aviation industry, specifically how Eclipse views their own coverage, after I began to wonder what it must be like to be on his end of the telephone and a computer monitor rather than mine. Actually, I have been on the PR side of aviation communications come to think of it.

I was a bit surprised when Andrew began by admitting what quite a few industry people believe about communications at Eclipse anyway. “I’ll bet you’re a little surprised I called you back,” he said. I had actually wondered. Afterall, I read the blogs that beat up Eclipse just like everyone else. “We get so much publicity because … well, we get so much publicity,” Broom said. “Working with the media is a trust issue,” he added. “If I’m responsive and I can actually talk to the reporter, they can ask me the hard questions. I do know how hard it is when people need information and don’t get it.”

Broom, a CFI, once saw himself as a budding airline pilot when he graduated from Embry Riddle University before an ear drum issue ended that career. Broom eventually ended up working for NBAA president Ed Bolen when Bolen ran GAMA. Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn brought Broom on initially as a sales guy, something Broom believes helped in his current position where he’s responsible for all trade shows, external events, speaking engagements and government relations. “I didn’t come in to this job with any preconceived notions of what a communicator should be.” 

He said he doesn’t always see the media as cheerleaders but does see them as a valuable resource to any company. Broom is not shy about discussing Eclipse naysayers and fully admits the company hasn’t delivered the airframes it promised at this point. He still asked a reporter once why they picked on Eclipse so much. “They told me it was because Eclipse was real.”

Blogs are a real part of the world today and help fuel the need for instant news gratification many of us are plagued with. Broom believes, “Some people on blogs simply make up the news though. Even though there isn’t really a solid norm for what makes a successful blog, I think a good one means you add value somehow [to a discussion], not simply fighting back and forth on an issue.”

“If a visitor comes here to Albuquerque and sees 50 airplanes coming down the line, if they see those eight buildings where we assemble, they’d see we’ve built a complex to handle high volume production. Sure there are disgruntled employees around. You’ll never get rid of that completely,” Broom concluded.

So will communications improve between those on the inside at Eclispe and those on the outside?

The answer to that question really depends upon whether or not you thought communications at Eclipse was a problem in the first place. I called Broom on his direct dial the first time a few months ago, left a message and received a call back within a few hours. He also called me back when I asked for this interview and followed up with photos and additional information when I asked for it. I happen to like a PR guy who calls back. There are many who don’t.

Eclipse was first to tie the VLJ acronym to a real airplane. For that, Vern Raburn has earned a reputation as a visionary. Like most people who march to a different drum – Thomas Edison and Henry Ford come to mind – Raburn has rubbed quite a few people the wrong way, most importantly because he just hasn’t yet swallowed that huge portion of crow so many people think he richly deserves for some of the problems at Eclipse.

Before we hung up, I asked Andrew Broom how the Eclipse PR guy deals with a boss whose reputation, among some, is to be vindictive to people who say things he doesn’t like. “I don’t think people see Vern that way,” Broom responded. “He values relationships with the media. But any company that has been lied to by a media representative, or had a media representative write a lie as fact will be leery of working with that company again. Vern, myself or any Eclipse representative thinks twice about talking to that outlet again. I think that is a normal trust issue.”

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