The old saying “fight fire with fire” was updated in the ongoing, uncomfortably public drama surrounding Dylan Farrow and her adoptive father Woody Allen. A week after Farrow gave a vivid account of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of Allen to the New York Times, Allen responded with a self-penned Opinion piece, also in the Times.
Technically and from a PR standpoint, Allen responded two days after Farrow’s piece ran: His publicist stated facts surrounding the original allegations, and his lawyer followed two days later by restating facts. Never once was Dylan Farrow called a liar; rather, blame was shifted to her mother, Mia Farrow.
Allen continued in that vein, stating the findings of the special unit assigned to child sexual abuse, as well as giving a more personal account. So far, so good. But that gives way to a more emotional side of Allen. He addresses Mia’s coy pondering about son Ronan’s paternity, citing her hint of infidelity as testament to “what kind of character we are dealing with here.”
By the end, the angry Allen becomes a father despairing over a lost relationship, as well as having this alleged incident discussed publicly again. “This piece will be my final word on the matter,” he writes. “Enough people have been hurt.”
THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Woody Allen.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: State your case by stating the facts, and then move on. One could hardly expect anyone accused of a heinous crime to remain calm, whether in person or on paper. In cases such as these, damned if you do, damned if you don’t; an unemotional response might have had people calling Woody Allen unfeeling, while the emotion he displayed – anger against Mia Farrow – may also tarnish him. From a PR perspective, his choice to speak, his method of communication, and his venue were all appropriate, as was his promise at the end to say no more.