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Johnny Depp And Amber Heard: A Defamation Lawsuit Or PR Gimmick?


The scathing defamation lawsuit and countersuit followed by a real-life courtroom drama between Hollywood exes, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard was the talk of the town a few months ago. Millions of people around the world watched their defamation trial as it was televised daily, resulting in countless social media discussions and hundreds of viral moments.

Being a drama fanatic myself – I was hooked. The more I followed, the more obvious it became that both parties were trying to control the PR narratives outside the courtroom, in the name of Litigation PR. A defamation trial turned into a full-blown ‘PR battle of Exes’.

What is a Litigation PR? Why does one need a litigation specialist for trial?

A good lawyer can help you win in court. While, a litigation PR pro can win you the court of public opinion! The right litigation PR strategy can give a person that much-needed edge, both in terms of the case and the publicity that follows. That is exactly what Depp’s PR team did!

A lack of a well-planned litigation PR strategy may harm cases and causes of by law firm clients.

After all, reputation and brand name are what matters to win a case. So, here are 3 things to consider when integrating PR strategies to optimise litigation results in your client’s favour:

A) Speed is key – A pithy remark will often go far and wide. An hour’s delay and the other side will have beaten you to it, or in high-profile cases social media may have already gone off-message. So, it is mandatory for the PR team to get out ahead and stay ahead in the mainstream media, monitor social media closely and correct misinformation where the influence of any publication requires it.

B) The footprint needs to be monitored – Digital footprint is everything nowadays, and it becomes imperative when stuck in a legal case that can make or break your client’s brand name. It is vital to leave your mark on how a legal case is being reported. Because, once published in public domain, it will always be accessible.

C) Be strategic – Set up an internal team to ensure media inquiries are handled promptly and in effective manner. Putting out ‘no comment’ or responding unprepared to media queries is not wise. Create talking points for the stakeholders, so that everyone communicates clearly and in-sync.

So, now you know!

In the next part I’ll talk about how Johnny Depp used Litigation PR to succeed.

Anjali Rajvardhan is Account Manager at Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy, an independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. |