As well as masterminding its No Plane No Gain programme to counter the unfavourable media reaction to business aviation, yesterday the NBAA mounted an on-site seminar designed to teach individual operators how to manage their media image.

Unlike some of the seminars at this year's convention, this one - called "Getting you into the news, and keeping you out of the news" was standing room only.

A rapt audience was shown an example of a story that could have been a disaster for aviation, but became a triumph: the Hudson river ditching.

Presenter Scott Sobel of Media and Communication Strategies analysed the components of the Hudson river event, and identified the factors that led the media to report is as they did: video footage, ATC tapes of the captain's coolly delivered decisions, media access to survivors and their families, the "miracle" factor, and the airline and the aviation industry rapidly opening up about what they knew and did not know.

Next, Sobel presented footage of the chief executives of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors being casually dismissive of press questions about why it had been necessary to use business jets to travel to Washington to mount their appeal for a government bail-out. If the executives had explained why it made sense, says Sobel, the journalists would have reported what they said. He told a highly sceptical audience that journalists' primary objectives are to "get the story first, and to get it right," so if they are provided - in quick time - with information they can understand that enables them to get it right, they will.

Sobel urged operators to have plans to make the most of opportunities for positive coverage and said all operators should have a disaster management plan, one of the vital components of which is to know how to meet the media's need to report what happened. Sobel advises operators to imagine all the scenarios they might face, and have plans for dealing with them.

Source: Flight Daily News