In a weekend filled with public relations news – Yahoo’s mail breach, a former Chris Christie associate saying his boss knew about Bridgegate, the loss of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman – one story stood out. Yet from a PR standpoint, it’s one of most difficult to assess. We’re talking – as is everyone in the media – about Dylan Farrow‘s accusation of sexual molestation by her adoptive stepfather Woody Allen.
Farrow wrote about the abuse in Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times. This was both an interesting and obvious choice. Interesting because Kristof is known for writing about sexual abuse of women and girls all over the world. Obvious because, as Kristof discloses, he is a friend of Farrow’s adoptive mother, Mia Farrow, and her brother Ronan Farrow.
Reaction from the media was swift, and only two sides could be taken. There were those who agreed with Farrow that Allen should not have been honored by the Golden Globes, and those who defended Allen by recounting the fact that he was never formally charged.
From a PR standpoint, the effects on Allen are obviously dire. (At the time of this posting Allen had not responded, but his rep did; read her statement here.) As the statute of limitations has run out on the case by at least 15 years, no legal action can be taken. Farrow’s point was to speak out, she said, for herself and for other victims. In that respect, she has been heard.
THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Dylan Farrow.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: When dropping a bombshell, choose your vehicle wisely. There’s no doubt Farrow could have made millions with a tell-all memoir or an exclusive to a tabloid. However, Farrow said her point was to speak out for herself and for other victims of abuse. By choosing the column of a champion of women’s rights in a respected newspaper, with no money exchanged, she maintained the integrity of her goal.