By Julia Schatz, Account Supervisor
When I read Gone Girl nearly two years ago, I had just begun working in crisis PR and didn’t think much beyond the initial “that’s messed up” reaction most people seem to have. However, I recently saw the movie in theaters and between having read the book and bringing my own experience working in crisis communications and PR, I watched from a different perspective than most. I walked away with different reaction and understanding of what the story really demonstrated. The entire plot line illustrates the power of the media, public perception and, therefore, public relations.
Gone Girl shows us that a well-planned strategy can influence a situation whether you are causing the problem or responding to it. Reputation management is not about the truth; it is about managing the media, and in turn, public opinion of your story.
Without spoiling the story for those who have not read or seen Gone Girl (which I highly recommend), I wanted to share some lessons in crisis communications the main characters teach us, or in the case of any communications professional, remind us.
1. Amy Dunne, although she was clearly crazy, was disciplined, detail-oriented, and created a long-term strategy to get out of a marriage she was unhappy in. She created her own image, defined a very clear narrative that she wanted others to believe and provided details to support this narrative. She anticipated others decisions and actions and used this knowledge to prepare and deliver a consistent message through a variety of different ways.
2. The media can be the judge and jury in the court of public opinion. If you don’t feed the beast, it can eat you alive. Nick Dunne, by refusing to tell his side of the story, allowed the media to create a narrative that used his actions out of context to make him a villain rather than a victim. Nick learned the hard way, like many of our clients, that “no comment” is not always the best move.
3. As Nick eventually learns, every word, every gesture, to the clothes you wear to your body language must be meticulously and strategically planned because every small detail matters. Choosing the right media, the right time, and the right way to tell your story are all essential in planning your response strategy in a crisis. This is why it is important to bring in experts to help you navigate these situations – and why hiring a good PR consultant is just as important as hiring a good lawyer – because the court of public opinion can decide a case far before it ever even goes to court!