By David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group
Celebrity divorces are always high profile news stories. And when the celebrities divorcing have a word that describes their pairing – Brangelina – and are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, you can expect nonstop media coverage. Celebrity divorces also use public relations to sway public opinion and force a settlement.
We saw the public relations component with Brangelina play out following the announcement that Angelina Jolie was seeking to divorce Brad Pitt. There has been an endless stream of negative stories planted in the media regarding Pitt (he was having an affair with his co-star; he has anger issues; he verbally abused his children and Jolie; he is a party animal; he is a heavy drinker and drug user; and so forth). While the coverage regarding Jolie has all been positive (she tried so hard; she wanted to give up the Hollywood life to concentrate on her humanitarian work, etc.,). This public relations strategy has put Pitt on the defensive and is shaping public opinion over this divorce. This is similar to the strategy Katie Holmes used against Tom Cruise during their divorce that led to a quick settlement. A key lesson of this is the side that gets their narrative out first wins in the court of public opinion.
Brad Pitt is reeling from the negative stories. He did get some slight assistance from his co-star, Marion Cotillard who denied allegations that she was having an affair with Pitt. Beyond that Pitt’s side was largely quiet. Now two days after while more negative stories are appearing about him, we are only beginning to see a slight push back from the Pitt camp with friends calling some of the allegations malicious and that Pitt wanted to stay in the marriage and loved Jolie. They need to do more because this case will be determined in the court of public opinion in many ways and what the public believes will also affect his brand long-term.
So what should Pitt do?
- Stay quiet and let others argue his case.
- Have his lawyers and friends deny in the strongest terms possible the allegations of verbal abuse with his children.
- Have female co-stars from his various films come forward to deny the womanizer claims.
- Have friends come forward and on how he worked on the marriage and was a loving husband and father.
- Put the onus of the failure on the marriage and the current nastiness on Jolie.
Celebrity divorces are always high profile – in coverage and the damage that can be done to career and brand. That is why in such cases, a public relations strategy is as critical as the legal strategy as we are seeing now in the end of Brangelina.