Know Your Reputation

The events of December 8th are
. No
two ways about it. The campus of Virginia Tech was shut down as a
killer was loose on campus. The entire incident, though luckily much
less widespread, echoed the events of April 16,
, when
Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 25 others on a march
through campus.

As news of the shooting and subsequent manhunt filtered through social
media channels, interest in the events skyrocketed. Which, I think, we
can all imagine would happen. Shooting at Virginia Tech? Trainwreck,
quick everyone watch. And watch they did. Constant updates on Twitter,
livestreamed press conference, the whole nine.

And about that press conference. I didn’t see it at the time, but the
comments from the Twitterati were not entirely supportive. Many feel
that questions that should have been answered were not. That the
spokesperson was evasive. Basically, the cluckers felt that if we’d
been doing the presser, it would’ve been much more enlightening. And
frankly, I don’t know nor care about the quality of the press
conference. In an insane setting, with terrible parallels being drawn
all over the place, I’m sure they did the best they could.

All of this second guessing, though, made me think about the
situation. Imagine you’re a PIO on the hunt for a new job. And the
Communications Director at Virginia Tech opens up. Before you take
that job, don’t you think you should think through each and every step
of what happens and should happen during an active shooter incident
and investigation? Like the back of your hand, I say.

Similarly if you work in a place that had a walkway collapse leading
to death and destruction, don’t you think you should learn everything
about the newly constructed walkway and existing infrastructure of the

And I say this not because you’re more likely to experience those
events again, but simply because if they do happen again, the media
and social media interest will be sky-high and more than you can
adequately deal with.

PIOs, know what you’re known for. Prepare accordingly.