Like many of you I was shocked and saddened this past weekend to learn of the tragic shooting in Arizona that left six dead and 14 wounded. In reading more about the shooter, it’s clear that he had issues that were becoming more and more apparent to those around him, and it’s sad to know that despite warning signs and concerns expressed by his fellow students at a local community college, he didn’t get help and was still able to carry out the events of this past weekend.
As a PR professional, I’ve been contemplating how this type of tragedy affects my view on public events. Together with my clients, I’ve planned events ranging from press announcements in the park with Denver’s Mayor to concerts for thousands of attendees at Red Rocks Amphitheater to sending models with body paint out onto a pedestrian mall – and while crisis planning is always on my mind, I have never imagined a scenario anywhere near the events of this past weekend in Arizona.
How could you possibly guess that an unstable individual might choose that day, that time and your event to act out?
The world we live in has certainly changed. Metal detectors at schools, invasive searches at airports, security cameras on the streets… I’m not complaining, because I appreciate the security that these additional safety measures afford, but I sometimes long for the innocence of the early days of my career.
I know that this event won’t cause me or my colleagues to stop planning events, but I also know that while security might have been further down the list than messaging against potentially tough questions from the media, it will be making its way closer to the top at my next event planning session.
At the end of the day I choose to believe that most people are good and incidents like this are incredibly isolated, but I also choose to approach things with my eyes opened more widely now. Leaving them shut and longing for the days of innocence is a risk we as PR professionals cannot afford to take.