While it is debatable whether or not PR played a role in swaying the Italian courts to free Amanda Knox, her transformation from bad girl to good girl in the press certainly had a positive effect in the court of public opinion.
After being accused of killing her housemate Meredith Kercher in 2007 during a semester abroad in Italy, Amanda was deemed a “she devil” by the European press. Upon her return to the U.S. after her conviction was overturned, the media welcomed her home as “a nice young woman, a linguistics major at the University of Washington, who had fallen victim to the Italian justice system,” as the New York Times recently put it.
So what contributed to the significant shift in public opinion? The answer – in part -- is a carefully executed PR campaign. The grass-roots effort was launched by the Knox family in response to pre-trial publicity that painted Amanda as a wild party girl with questionable morals. The family hired a Seattle-based PR firm that specializes in crisis management after receiving an overwhelming number of media calls. Friends of the family also created a website that protested her innocence and showcased heart-warming family photos to paint a more wholesome picture of Knox.
While it is difficult to know for sure if the Italian courts were influenced by Knox's media campaign, this is a great example of the powerful impact PR has on shaping the public's opinion and dispelling preconceived notions.
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