Monday, December 12, 2011

Be thankful

The tragic, senseless shooting last Friday (Dec. 9) in Hollywood is a reminder to cherish each day.

These were the words from one of the unsuspecting motorists whose car was hit by gunfire from a man standing in the middle of Hollywood and Vine. And it was a statement that a TV news team recognized was different enough to stay in the broadcast story.

Sadly, one of this gunman's victims died today - music industry producer John Atterberry. A chance encounter for this poor man, leaving a bank unaware of what was transpiring around him and getting shot by this crazed gunman.

On one hand, the prophetic advice from an almost victim is something we are all heeding - or should be soon. Live life like there is no tomorrow.

On the other side is our curiosity about the event itself.

Like many, I've been following this story since it first broke. First, the video clips from witnesses brought to life an incredible scene. Then we heard stories from individuals who either came to the aid of Mr. Atterberry, or from the drivers of cars that had their windows shot out.

Then we wanted to know: Who was this crazy gunman and why did he do this?

The answers trickled out in pieces, almost in a timed cadence.

TV news outlets have appeared to be out-hustling their counterparts in print to get the details. For instance, we learn the gunman actually reloaded - he fired 20 rounds, not 10 as we first heard. His former girlfriend told TV stations he was "stressed out" lately, upset by their recent break-up and allegedly met someone else who was giving him drugs that changed his mood and behavior.

This is a story that has captured the attention of most of Southern California, possibly beyond. Why? For many of the same reasons we professionals in public relations recognize are the elements of a compelling story.

  • It's local. Even if we never had driven through the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, we know a lot about this famous, iconic location. We know tourists from around the world venture to this place. We know it's busy. We can readily identify with it.
  • It shakes our sensibilities. This time, we were shaken in a bad way. Our sense of "peace" was shattered. It could have been one of us. When it's good news, we in the PR profession also try to awaken a person's senses, but in a favorable way. If we can capture a specific human reaction, if it's unusual enough and upsets the path or boundaries we walk with every day, then we have "reached" people.
  • It touches a nerve, a raw emotion. We all like to think we're immune to things the world throws at us, that we're built to handle the tough stuff. But for an event or announcement to really capture our attention, it needs to break through these immunity barriers.

There are a string of other factors that examine the human condition and its predictive nature when reacting to events and information, or in how we manage an emotional conflict that unwillingly takes us from our comfort zone. (I'd suggest reading the "Switch" and "Made to Stick"books by the Heath brothers.)

A senseless shooting is tragic. Very tragic. Life life to the fullest every day.

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