It is being reported today that Amanda Knox’s ex-lover Raffaele Sollecito has earned a masters degree in computer engineering from the University of Verona. For his thesis, “He analyzed the traffic generated by the news on social networks, and the flow of comments between colpevolisti [people who think he is guilty] and innocentisti [people who believe he is innocent].” Although the article makes no mention of public relations efforts online, he would no doubt have had to consider PR input to make a valid study.
After Meredith Kercher was found murdered in her Italian cottage on November 2, 2007, witness testimonies and evidence led the authorities to four main suspects: Patrick Lumumba, Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Guede. The media quickly honed in on Amanda Knox or ‘Foxy Knoxy’ the nickname she used on her Myspace page.
As the trial in Italy progressed, more stories of her promiscuity and drug use covered the tabloids. The subsequent trials led to guilty convictions for Guede, Knox and Sollecito. Lumumba was freed after spending two weeks in jail when he was proven to have been wrongfully accused by Amanda Knox.
While Knox sat in prison her friends and family pulled together to sanitize her reputation in the media. “The effort to shape Ms. Knox’s image began soon after her arrest. Her father, Curt Knox, was put in touch with Gogerty Marriott, a Seattle public affairs firm, by a colleague at Macy’s, where he was a vice president at the time.”
Marriott Gogerty specializes in crisis management public relations (PR). Another public relations firm outlines what this type of work entails:
- 24/7/365 rapid-response crisis management team
- Comprehensive response training
- Message development (statements, press releases, articles and more)
- Media relations
- Social media management
- Online monitoring
- Third-party ally development
- Crisis response “War Room”
- Online reputation management
From the bullet points it becomes clear that internet developments such as articles and social media are heavily emphasized in PR. This presents a problem for Knox as her conviction was in an Italian speaking country while she is based in the U.S. The result is an apparent overwhelming show of support for Knox in the U.S. media while the rest of the world, not under the influence of her PR, believes the three convicted people are indeed guilty as charged.
Public relations is perfectly understandable for celebrities, politicians, or executives, but murder suspects too? At first this aggressive proliferation of pro-Knox articles, tweets and commentary were justified as a defense against the European media’s negative portrayal of her. However, as time wore on, the overpowering presence of Knox’s media campaign has reached outlandish proportions.
Nowadays no blogger is safe to write a factual article about the Meredith Kercher Murder Case without contemptuous comments filling up their Disqus community. Patient webmasters at CNN.com must brace themselves for the onslaught of tens of thousands of interjections cluttering up each and every news article concerning the Meredith Kercher cum Amanda Knox murder case. Mob mentality seems to have taken over Knox’s PR initiative. Knox’s advocates have gone so far as to aim their crosshairs on the victim's family.
While Knox’s PR campaign has recently become more prevalent and obvious to the casual observers of this murder case, the news outlets in Knox’s home town of Seattle seem to be entirely under its spell. A blackout of any new developments in the murder case which may shine an unfavorable light on their hometown homicide suspect appears to be in effect.
A recent example is when Knox’s ex-lover and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito held a press conference on July 1, 2014. In this public statement, he withdrew his alibi for Knox. News media from around the world covered the event and published articles with the titles: “Sollecito withdraws Amanda Knox alibi for night of Kercher murder”, “Knox's ex: We weren't together the whole night of the crime”, and “Sollecito was not with Knox the entire evening.”
Meanwhile, Amanda’s hometown dispatches seemed to interpret breaking developments very differently. The Seattle Times published, “Amanda Knox’s ex-beau: Evidence points to my innocence” and the article inexplicably makes no mention of Sollecito’s withdrawal of Knox’s alibi. Coincidentally, Amanda Knox’s PR firm, Gogerty Marriott is based in Seattle, WA.
Seattle based news website King5.com makes no effort to hide the fact that Knox’s PR apparently dictates the news coverage concerning Knox. They quote Marriott directly in a recent article.
All of the public relations efforts seem to be paying off, at least for Raffaele. He discovered in his studies that, “ . . . on the web, in the days after the final verdict (condemnation), his name is most often associated the word 'innocent' than 'guilty'.” He did not mention what Amanda Knox’s name was most often associated with.