Archive for April, 2010

Volcanic Media Ash

Monday, April 26th, 2010

The dust, to paraphrase a dusty old saying, has begun to settle. The volcanic cloud of Icelandic soot and debris that choked European travel to a standstill has subsided. Planes are taking off and landing at gates around the EU. But the figurative dust is now being kicked up. And in true European political fashion, the fingers are being pointed in every direction. (Yes, such is the US political fashion as well, but typically it’s a much less civilized, and wryly humorous, style of pointing.)

Our namesake leader here at LCI, David Landis, was caught in the dust. He’s made his successful return to the States and we’re glad to have him back. But his fortnight in the EU did not go uninterrupted. Though we look forward to hearing tales of his journey abroad, it’s worth sharing the following item from Europe, and how a natural disaster is inevitably made worse by humans.

As reported in the New York Times: “Yet even if the ash spewed across European skies by a volcano in Iceland begins to dissipate soon, the region is grappling with a new blow to its ability to act decisively during an emergency. That is a problem that has plagued it repeatedly as it has struggled to manage swine flu, the financial crisis and the problem of Greek debt.

Most noisily, the head of the International Air Transport Association said before the announcement of a partial lifting of the aviation ban on Monday that ‘the decision Europe has made is with no risk assessment, no consultation, no coordination, no leadership.’ The industry group’s director general and chief executive, Giovanni Bisignani, went further, saying that the crisis is a ‘European embarrassment’ and ‘a European mess.’”

It took five days to organize the first conference call of the European transport ministers, Mr. Bisignani said, and with 750,000 passengers stranded: “Does it make sense?”

His words struck home with many. But given that the European Union does not control European airspace, a responsibility that rests with each individual country, some suggested that Mr. Bisignani was being a little too harsh — but only a little.

Jean Quatremer, the European Union correspondent for the French newspaper Libération, said the situation seemed “inexplicable to outsiders, that the Europe Union should regulate the size of peas but not the E.U. airspace.””

Whether Iceland, Europe, Malaysia, America, or anywhere else on the globe, natural disasters provide an easy gateway for political discourse. They also invariably create a certain type of man-made disaster: the media firestorm. I think it’s funny and rather interesting that the finger-pointing had begun in Europe before the dust had a chance to settle. Yes, a lot of people were stranded in airports, and yes lots of plans were inconvenienced. But I can’t imagine who would have been willing to clear that first jetliner for takeoff into the ash cloud. “Better safe than sorry” in this case was probably just as sound a policy as pea regulation.

LCI Wins! More good news recently here at LCI. We’re proud to announce our newest win: the 2010 Bronze Level Bulldog Award for Excellence in Media and Public Relations in the category of Best Use of Social media Tools – Business/Consumer, for our work in collaboration with the fantastic PR team at the San Francisco Symphony. We’re delighted with the honor — one which only solidifies our practice and our belief that good PR and good social media go hand in hand.

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