U.S. Aviation Could Benefit by Ramping Up Its Use of Social Media, Advise LeClairRyan Aviation Attorneys


ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — U.S. aviation stands to reap big benefits by fully leveraging the likes of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but the potential risks of social media also require careful consideration, said LeClairRyan aviation attorneys during a webinar exploring the role of social media in the industry.

“Social media are unfiltered, direct and instantaneous, and there’s no question but that they are here to stay,” noted Mark A. Dombroff, an Alexandria-based member of the national law firm and co-leader of its aviation industry practice, during the March 7 presentation. The 120-minute webinar and Q&A (“Social Media: Aviation Risks & Benefits”) drew more than 300 attendees, including risk managers, attorneys, government personnel, social media managers and aviation consultants.

As with nearly every other sector in the U.S. economy, the aviation industry is now grappling with a powerful phenomenon—the ubiquity of smartphones, Dombroff told the audience. “Everybody with a smartphone is a participant in the social media process, and a journalist to boot,” he said. “American industry, aviation included, is more often than not behind the power curve. Before companies even know it, events are occurring that directly affect them and are already out there on social media.”

But rather than merely playing defense against viral videos or trending hashtags, Dombroff advised, the aviation sector should actually do more to leverage the benefits of social media. “These channels are fast and efficient, and they’re a direct line of communication between you and your customers or constituents,” he said. “Used effectively, social media can eliminate or control rumors. They can also demonstrate your concern and show credibility and goodwill that builds your brand.” The attorney cited widely praised tweets, issued in response to the disappearance of flight QZ8501, by AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandez (@TonyFernandez). “In today’s world of social media, you either reach out or you lose out,” Dombroff said.

But the veteran aviation attorney and his co-presenter, LeClairRyan partner Morgan W. Campbell, also focused on the risks associated with the use of social media by airlines, airports and government officials hailing from the NTSB or the FAA. The wrong post on Twitter or LinkedIn, Campbell told the audience, could end up disseminating falsehoods; confusing people by presenting divergent facts from multiple sources; or even creating rumors or a panic, as reportedly happened when people spread false rumors about a “second shooter” during the deadly January 2017 incident at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport.

“There are a whole host of risks and liabilities associated with the use of social media, just in terms of potential legal actions alone,” Campbell told the audience. “You could face claims of infliction of emotional distress; fraud, misrepresentation or defamation; invasion of privacy; or copyright infringement, particularly if you’re using photographs. There can even be communications that run afoul of a contract or a confidentiality agreement.”

During the webinar, Dombroff and Campbell provided a series of policy and procedure recommendations designed to help the aviation sector minimize such risks—everything from detailed plans on how to use social media in an emergency, to the daily review process for even mundane social media posts.

For an audio recording of the webinar, visit https://www.leclairryan.com/events/xpreventsdetail.aspx?xpst=eventdetail&event=545

About LeClairRyan
As a trusted advisor, LeClairRyan provides business counsel and client representation in corporate law and litigation. In this role, the firm applies its knowledge, insight and skill to help clients achieve their business objectives while managing and minimizing their legal risks, difficulties and expenses. With offices from coast to coast, the firm represents a wide variety of clients nationwide. For more information about LeClairRyan, visit www.leclairryan.com.

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