Amanda Knox is returning home now that her Italian murder conviction has been overturned — and the news media, most notably in Britain, are predicting she will make millions by telling her story.
A more poignant story is the PR campaign conceived and carried out from a Seattle high-rise building that played a critical role in drawing attention to her case and her innocence.
David Marriott, who has crisis communications credentials a mile long, was the person called by the father of Amanda Knox. He has worked tirelessly — and for some time without compensation — to proclaim her innocence, generating literally thousands of press mentions and in-depth coverage on television.
A partner in Gogerty Marriott based in Seattle, Marriott is the kind of guy you want to have a drink with and hear his stories. None is more compelling than his tale about trying initially to drum up media interest in the murder charge against a young Seattle woman studying in Italy and reputedly involved with drugs and sex parties. Marriott carefully cultivated an international audience that became riveted to every detail in the Knox case, reaching a crescendo in the appellate review of her case that ended in a reversal of her conviction and that of her former Italian boyfriend.
"At the same time we were helping the family get the truth out about their daughter, we also tried to help maintain some sense of normalcy in their lives," says the firm's website. The work sometimes involved tamping rumors fueled by official news leaks in Italy, which has a far different legal system than the United States.
Nowadays, Marriott says he toggles between calls from TV producers and others willing to pay big money for the first official post-release interview of Knox. One media report said the bidding war has gone as high as $1 million for the rights to that interview. He has the numbers of producers from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and independent shows such as Oprah Winfrey on his speed dial.
Then there will be a book and other media opportunities, starting with the press conference today at Sea-Tac Airport when Knox arrives home. Marriott will be there as the media circus master.
Marriott is savvy enough to know that the story won't end with a couple of interviews and book tour. As one British media critic observed, the question remains of how to address lingering suspicion by "half the world that still thinks she's guilty." His advice is to lay the groundwork for a compassionate world reaction to her story, starting with a meeting with the family of Meredith Kercher, the murder victim. The Italian prosecutor who seems obsessed with Knox also has threatened to appeal the voided conviction.
No doubt Marriott is way ahead of the curve in thinking about smart next steps. More important, he has earned the trust of the Knox family and the news media covering the story, so what he advises probably will happen and get reported. He has done what the best PR professionals do — help a client project his or her authentic voice. That voice declaring innocence in pitch perfect Italian, echoing through canyons of media coverage, has given Knox her freedom and her life back.
[Gogerty Marriott is the Seattle member of Pinnacle Worldwide, a network of independently owned and operated public relations agencies. Before the Knox case, Marriott, who served four years as president and chairman of Pinnacle Worldwide, was considered one of the nation's best crisis communicators, especially in the air transportation sector.]