Handling “Uh Oh” Moments


It is a sad reality, but it is still a reality: something will inevitably happen during your show that upsets people. We all lie awake at night fearing an incident, but sometimes the incident is commonplace: a sprained ankle, a problem with parking lots, food poisoning or a lost child. 

When bad things happen, your ability to handle those incidents makes you a trusted community partner, and does so more effectively than any amount of marketing or promotion. Have you and your spokesperson been trained in emergency communications? If not, you are ignoring a critical link in your ability to operate a respected, profitable show. 

Many shows mistakenly believe their police or fire chief can handle communications in an emergency. Most emergency responders are great at relaying crucial information in an emergency, but they aren’t there to build trust or credibility. In short, they don’t work for you, and can’t help you calm down an upset city councilor or agitated sponsor. 

Another common pitfall is asking your marketing/promotions team to handle an incident. An “uh-oh moment” is very different than an upbeat and exciting media environment. Being able to calm an upset reporter is different than designing a poster or arranging media rides. Promoting an “all is well” message (especially if all is not well) has the possibility to make things worse. 

An investment in emergency communications training (versus simple media training) is a wise move for any air show organization. Even the most seasoned team can use a refresher. After all, there is a lot on the line. 

It is a YouTube world. When your “uh-oh moment” happens, it will be online within minutes and will impact you for years. You need designated spokesperson that has been trained on how to build trust and credibility with a skeptical audience. Not just for your sake, but for the sake of your sponsors, your performers, and the entire air show industry.

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The International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) is a trade association dedicated to building and sustaining a vibrant air show industry to support its membership. To achieve this goal, ICAS demands its members operate their air show business at only the highest levels of safety, professionalism, and integrity.