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Amber Heard vs Johnny Depp: A Public Relations Perspective

The recent Amber Heard and Johnny Depp case took the world by storm. We watched, from different corners of the world, a six-week trial in Virginia turn into an international case. One can almost assert it bordered on historical – hinting at a shift in the #MeToo movement. For most of us, it was another entertaining story, one that showed us that past the glitz and glamour, celebrities are also human – equally fallible. For others, it was a heartbreaking reminder of abuse; a piercing recollection that the truth can be mixed with lies, and sometimes, the innocent suffers too.

Whatever the case, the trial was a glaring example of the importance of Public Relations – especially in crisis. When examined closely, elements of PR can be seen within the case, and these elements combined made for a sensible verdict.  

The first element is ‘Image Shaping’ – which is the creation of a positive perception around your brand and/or personality. It goes without saying, Mr. Depp has a stardom that supersedes imagination – one well-crafted through beloved characters such as Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of The Caribbean), Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland) and Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows). While Amber Heard has played some lovable characters, her stardom does not nearly coincide with that of Depp. Further, Ms. Heard has a history of alleged abuse in previous relationships – as seen with ex-partner Tasya van Ree. Notably, with Depp, his previous partner Winona Ryder found it “impossible to believe” that he was capable of any form of abuse. Hence, with such exceptional stardom and few negative allegations, Mr. Depp was at a striking advantage in the court of public opinion. It becomes unsurprising then, that the fans created an intense atmosphere outside the court in support of Depp, an atmosphere so powerful that Elaine Bredehoft (Heard’s attorney) felt swayed the verdict in support of the actor.

Jack Sparrow Running
Jack Sparrow Running: Image via Disney

The second element of PR is ‘Stakeholder Engagement’ – which refers to how well one deals with the key partners involved. In the context of the case, a primary stakeholder was the jury, and how Depp and Heard told their stories and answered questions played a vital part in shaping the outcome of the verdict. Ms. Heard employed a more aggressive approach – evident in the article she wrote in The Washington Post and how she answered trial questions. Depp on the other hand, opted for  a more composed posture interspersed with comical interludes during the hearing.  From an external perspective, a calm demeanor suggests nothing to worry about; it also suggests someone rooted in truth – someone who is not trying too hard to create false narratives.

The third, and perhaps one of the most important, element of PR is ‘Crisis and Reputation Management’, with a special focus on reputation  given the level of stardom at play. Specifically, and a reason why PR should always be a backbone for your brand, is recovering and regrouping from such a blow to one’s image.

Amber Heard as Mera in Aquaman
Amber Heard as Mera in Aquaman: Image via ScreenRant

It is rumored that Amber Heard has lost her role in the upcoming Aquaman 2 – while Depp lost his place in Fantastic Beasts 3 to Mads Mikkelsen. Mr. Depp also lost a $22.5 million deal – wherein he was meant to star in the next Pirates of Caribbean. When there is a lot at stake having a reputable PR firm in your corner is invaluable. Your reputation can make or break you.  As stated by Warren Buffet, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”, hence it becomes vital to invest in a PR firm such as HSA PR to protect your brand and protect a lifetime worth of effort and hard work.

While the case is a beautiful analysis of PR relations, it also makes for an important analysis of crucial social dynamics. The #MeToo movement has given voice to women across the globe. Women who have been silenced across generations. It has brought to light how rampant abuse is – and the cloud of fear to speak up is no longer as potent. However, as more female voices came to light, it muffled that of men Somewhere during the trials, riots, and activism, men’s voices faded into distant echoes. Hence, Johnny Depp’s win is not just a win for himself, it is a win for men. It is a win for men who have been yearning to be heard. It is a win for men who felt ashamed to be vulnerable – because of social narratives that require men to be ‘strong’. This is a win for men who forgot the sound of their own voices.

Now, men can finally say, ‘Me too’, and the world will listen.

This trial was also a win for integrity and reputation. The testimony of Depp’s witnesses specifically previous amorous relationships aided in his victory. As often as we can, let’s do the right thing and be good people. If you don’t know how, reach out to us at HSA PR and we will be glad to steer you in the right direction.

Protesters marching against sexual assault in Hollywood
Protesters marching against sexual assault in Hollywood. AP Photo

At HSA PR, we believe every voice matters. We are a global PR agency that has supported Governments, Multinational Corporations, Law firms, Educational Institutions, Politicians and Executives. Our focus and experience is not just limited to Ghana but the African continent – but globally.

We possess a collective experience of over twenty years – one rooted in Public Relations, Communication Strategy, Communication Strategy and Campaigns, Crisis & Reputation Management, Government Relations, and Strategic Advisory services.

We possess a deep understanding of various business cultures, economic drivers, and key characteristics among multiple demographics, hence not only are we exceptionally experienced, we are also incredibly diverse.

Hence, whether you are on the verge of a trial (like the Amber Heard versus Depp case), or in need of rebranding, we are the PR firm for you.

Not only will we PROTECT your brand, but we will also UPLIFT your story – and reshape your NARRATIVE to effectively represent YOU – and your UNIQUE VALUE.

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