4 PR lessons from ‘Gone Girl’

The fictional story of how a man dealt with the media scrutiny that came after his wife’s disappearance offers a realistic look at what happens in a crisis.

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In the blockbuster movie “Gone Girl,” America suspects that Ben Affleck’s seemingly dim-witted character Nick Dunne has murdered his pregnant wife Amy (played by Rosamund Pike). The press descends upon his Missouri hometown to scrutinize every aspect of his life and character. People camp in lawn chairs outside his McMansion watching the sordid spectacle unfold as if it were a live reality TV show. In some ways, it is.

Nick is transformed into a canvas for excitable cable news hosts and online bloggers to portray a character who is in essence a marketable product for entertainment and ratings. Stories about his college student mistress, reports on his credit card debt, video of his inappropriate grins, and awkward pleas for Amy’s return curdle into a public relations nightmare from which he cannot escape.

While ostensibly a commentary on modern marriage, “Gone Girl” also shrewdly explores the media environment in which we live. The court of public opinion convicts or exonerates long before a judge slams a gavel. Shiny cable hosts and their glib guest experts expound on Nick’s motives and narcissistic state of mind. Public figures join the fray, slyly marketing their expertise while helping the media sustain its narrative.

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