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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard – why the actors’ court case is so newsworthy
November 3, 2020

You may or may not have a view on Johnny Depp’s libel case with The Sun which, has just been announced, he has lost. Whatever, your views the tussle between the Hollywood actor and the Sun newspaper, which called him a “wife-beater” offers some useful insights into what makes a media story. It’s of interest to anyone working in corporate communications and or media training.

We work with a number of actors’ agents and publicists as well as individuals who in the spotlight to help develop messages, identify good stories, and manage difficult or unwelcome questions.

First of all, the Depp case is human.

The fact is that journalists don’t write about issues, companies, or new launches, we write about human beings. This might have something to do with the fact that they’re the ones that read our articles, listen to our radio reports and watch our TV news programmes. During our media training courses we spend some time looking at what it is that makes a media story and how this relates to the organisation that we’re training. The human factor comes pretty near the top when we do this, whatever the sector.

That’s why it’s always important in media interviews to think about how you’re going to include a human angle and make your messages relevant to human beings.

The media loves conflict.

Politics, sport, legal battles, company takeovers – they’re all about conflict.
We love pitting one side against another. Depp versus The Sun versus Amber Heard certainly has bags of conflict. You can bet that every editor or producer will be looking for talking heads or “gobs on sticks” as they’re also known who can now pile into this debate and argue for one side or the other.

How does this love of conflict affect those doing media interviews?

Well, they always have to be aware of the fact that the media is looking for this kind of disagreement. As we explain to people in our media training workshops they need to be aware of this and they need to ready to move away from it.
On the other hand, you can always go into an interview with contention or a demand for something as this makes great copy. But as always, you need to be prepared for this. Don’t just throw it into an interview as it comes into your head.

We might not all be movie stars but most people are in or have experience of a relationship.

They might have argued with their partner at some point. We don’t do marriage guidance at Communicate Media (sorry, you’ll have to go elsewhere for that) but we do offer guidance on how to make sure that your comments during a media interview resonate with your audience.
Making them relevant and human and easy to relate to, whether you’re talking money, health, the law, science, education, or the supply chain for clothing to take a few random examples, you have to connect your comments with the lived experience of your audience.

This case is making the news now because it’s just reached its climax but it’s also part of a much broader interest in domestic violence. The plight of women who are attacked by their partners (and of men in some cases too) has, quite rightly, been grabbing more media attention over the last few years. Lockdown has renewed interest and provided a new angle on this issue.

If you’re doing an interview it’s a good idea to fit your message into a broader context or a more general trend. This makes it all the most topical and newsworthy.

This story is very visual.

You’ve got famous people, strikingly dressed, arriving, complete with entourage at the entrance of one of the most famous buildings in Britain. Around them are protestors and supporters. All of our media trainer journalists at Communicate Media have reported from the High Court and the Old Bailey during their careers and they know that it makes a great backdrop for TV and the print media.

What is the lesson here for PR and corporate communications professionals?

Make it visual. Think about pictures when you’re launching a product or service. It also means that during the answers you give during a media interview you’ve got to paint pictures. Phrases such as “Just imagine,” work very well to introduce a simple, visual example.
The word “imagine”, you’ll notice contains the word “image”.

When you think about it, so much of the language of understanding is visual – do you see what I mean? Is that clear? Do you get the picture? We process visual information up to 60,000 times faster than information delivered through words and so anything visual that you can include works well to communicate your message during a media interview.

Chat to Communicate Media

We might not all be movie stars slogging it out at the high court but with careful planning and media training, we can still use some of the ingredients of this case to do a good media interview and to get our message across.

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