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From She-Devil to Free Woman: How PR Influenced the Amanda Knox Verdict

Supporters of Amanda Knox react to Monday's verdict in Seattle's Fairmot Olympic Hotel (image courtesy of Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The Amanda Knox verdict has captured international attention, and here in Knox’s hometown of Seattle, the buzz is almost palpable, as the community anxiously awaits her return. Whether you believe she is innocent, guilty, or somewhere in between, one thing is clear: a large part of the trial has centered around her image – and that image has dramatically shifted over the last four years. With early headlines calling her “Foxy Knoxy,” a vixen and a she-devil, from the get-go, the media had typecast her as a character so manipulative and corrupt that you couldn’t help think, of course she was capable of doing what she did, even though the prosecution never did pinpoint any sort of motive. And because Italy’s judicial system doesn’t sequester their jurors like they do in the U.S., the jury was undoubtedly influenced by the image projected by the media.

So what did her family do? Hired a PR agency to handle the barrage of media inquiries and construct the right messaging needed to combat the negative headlines. Separately, a PR campaign unaffiliated with the family called “Friends of Amanda Knox” worked to redirect the focus on the facts, and to rally support from the public. NPR ran an interesting story today on Morning Edition, about how the PR efforts on behalf of Knox are largely credited for the results of yesterday’s acquittal. The Seattle Times ran a similar piece.

I will admit, I personally still have my doubts on this case. There are a lot of holes, and unfortunately for Meredith Kercher’s family, we may never know what really happened that night. But regardless of your views, you can’t deny that the public opinion of Ms. Knox has drastically improved. Just look at the comments section of any news story on the case, and you’ll see the sentiment is heavily in favor of the acquittal. As for myself, should I happen to run into Ms. Knox in my West Seattle neighborhood from which she hails, I’ll simply smile and say, “Welcome home.”

What do you think? Do you think the outcome would have been different, if not for the PR efforts on behalf of Amanda Knox?

Amanda Hoffman can be reached at ahoffman@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoffmandy.

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Sterling’s New Seattle Digs

You’ve probably noticed that the Sterling Communications website and blog have a new look and feel. What you might not know is that our physical Seattle office does as well. After six years in our downtown location, the Seattle team has officially settled into our new digs in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. (As you may recall, Sterling also recently opened up a new San Francisco office – lots of exciting changes happening with the company!)

The new office space is definitely an improvement over the old space, with room for our team to grow and lots of great tech companies in the area. It’s been about a month, and we’re still settling in and making some cosmetic adjustments, but the space is coming along nicely. Check out some photos below – more on our Facebook page.

Old office packed and ready to go!

Inside Sterling Communications' new Seattle office

VP Kevin Pedraja’s office – check out that view!
Lisa Hawes

Would You Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Stop Talking?

Mrs KravitzSocial media is all about sharing. It offers many channels for those who like to talk about themselves and others, à la Mrs. Kravitz, the archetypal nosy neighbor on “Bewitched.” The person writing can’t see if his or her interlocutor is rolling their eyes or nodding off; meanwhile, the audience can simply ignore the steady stream of posts. Or can they?

Last week the Seattle Police Department (SPD) experimented with its official Twitter feed. (Read one of the many stories, here written by the Seattle Times.) As part of a campaign to make its work more transparent to the community, the SPD tweeted nearly all of its emergency calls during a 12-hour period. Even with the elimination of dispatches pertaining to “sensitive” topics such as domestic violence and child abuse, the message count still reached over 475 by day’s end. While many Twitter followers appreciated this view into a typical day on the force, many others expressed their irritation as the flood of SPD posts clogged the view of their Twitter streams — an average of 40 per hour. That made me think — how much is too much? How many tweets or Facebook posts can you make before your audience cries “Enough already!”? (more…)