Global Aerospace’s SM4 Aviation Safety Program Offers Valuable Insights on Managing Media in Aviation Crises

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Aviation Emergency Response and the Media

Morris Plains, July 05, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — With recent advancements in technology, the media has become more accessible to everyone, and social media platforms have greatly increased the speed with which information can be shared. As a communication method, the media can be an excellent tool to reach a large audience in a timely manner. However, this ease of access and the nature of modern techniques to drive viewership leads to important considerations in emergency situations.

Female leading interview with journalists
Global Aerospace

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Rapid Information Dissemination: A Double-Edged Sword

While the speed with which information can be shared via the media is one of its greatest assets, this attribute also carries drawbacks. In the event of an emergency, social media is often the first source people turn to, as coverage often begins mere minutes after the event happens, and a quick search can yield a significant amount of information.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of emergencies, preliminary information about them is often incomplete and inaccurate, and the initial burst of attention brought to bear often serves to amplify false reports. Full details regarding the nature and root cause of the emergency are usually not immediately available, leaving significant room for public speculation and opportunities for misinformation to spread. Once incorrect information is out in the public sphere, it can be nearly impossible to correct false perceptions.

The Potential for Misinformation in Emergency Situations

It is important to note that in today’s world, much of the publicly available information regarding emergencies is not shared by established resources such as traditional news agencies. Social media creates a platform for individuals to share any opinions and information they have gathered, regardless of the source or credibility. Private individuals do not have an obligation to report accurate news and often do not face any consequences for spreading misinformation.

The spread of inaccurate reporting can have a significant negative impact on a company. An organization we support once experienced a hangar collapse late at night following severe weather. While all company employees had left several hours earlier and the hangar was empty, it was incorrectly reported that two personnel were trapped in the wreckage. This news spread like wildfire, resulting in reporters besieging the CEO directly requesting comment.

In another case, several news organizations used a stock photo of one company’s aircraft to head up coverage of another organization’s in-flight emergency, resulting in a mass influx of customers sending concerned messages regarding the company’s safety practices to its customer service team.

Keeping Incidents in Perspective

In addition to influencing the public perception of an event, both social and news media can also unnecessarily amplify the magnitude of that event, confounding response efforts. For example, consider a case from August 2018, when a chartered aircraft made an emergency landing at New York Stewart International Airport following suspicions that a tire popped on takeoff.

The aircraft was over its landing weight and had to burn the excess fuel to land safely, which led to the aircraft circling over the airport for several hours. The magnitude of the situation was amplified due to a post the celebrity passenger onboard made on social media. Many fans were panicking because they did not have the full picture nor the knowledge of aviation to recognize that the circling was a standard procedure to burn fuel.

As a result, hundreds of social media influencers and news organizations covered the remainder of the flight in breathless detail, live-streaming their analysis and posting by-the-minute updates. Much to their surprise, the crew were met on the ramp by a slew of media trucks and several ambulances following an ultimately uneventful landing and smooth taxi.

Consider also that aviation accidents often involve smoke, flames and wreckage, all making for cover photos that catch the eye and draw viewers. Reporters can leverage these images with leading headlines that prey on people’s fear of flying, and our natural human attraction to stories with an element of danger or intrigue.

Further, given recent increased public interest in conversations regarding wealth inequality and environmental stewardship, even simple mentions of terms such as “private jet” can significantly drive viewership. The fact that the root cause of accidents is rarely known in the early stages also grants reporters a “gift that keeps on giving,” as they can post additional follow-ups as more details become known, and as authorities progress through the stages of their investigation.

Managing Emergency Communications Effectively

Due to the significant impact the media can have on response efforts, it is crucial for companies to have a comprehensive framework in place to manage emergency communications. This framework should include proactive tools such as media monitoring, which acts as an early-warning system, and more reactive tools such as hotlines for triaging inbound media inquiries and pre-prepared holding statements.

This framework should also incorporate training for employees in key frontline and managerial positions that are likely to be the recipients of media attention. Finally, companies should set in place policies and procedures for how they plan to communicate in the event of an emergency, covering both means and methods, and specific word-sets that align with the corporate strategy.

In today’s world, social and news media have a significant ability to influence people’s perception of an emergency. Utilized correctly and proactively, both can be useful tools for your company to manage the spread of false information, connect with stakeholders and reinforce company values in the midst of a crisis.


About Global Aerospace SM4 Aviation Safety Program
The Global Aerospace SM4 Safety Program has revolutionized the way insurance specialists help their clients achieve higher levels of operational safety. SM4 was built on the concept of integrating four critical safety components: planning, prevention, response and recovery. Its mission is to help organizations manage risk, enrich training efforts, strengthen safety culture and improve safety management systems. https://sm4.global-aero.com/

Global Aerospace SM4 Aviation Safety Program Media Contact
Suzanne Keneally
Vice President, Group Head of Communications
+1 973-490-8588

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