Academy award-winning Reese Witherspoon – drunk and disorderly

Academy award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon was arrested last month after police stopped the car her husband, Hollywood agent Jim Toth, was driving to give him a sobriety test. Witherspoon wouldn’t stay in the car when asked to do so by the officer and was given a disorderly conduct charge.

“Crazier than you thought”
Initially, the episode was managed without much trouble. The paparazzi hadn’t witnessed it and Witherspoon controlled the story by appearing on ‘Good Morning America‘ with the power to pick and mix what she wanted to share of the event – no-one else had seen it, after all. She expressed her regrets, stated that she and her husband know better really and that they were embarrassed and sorry for their poor judgement.

And then, a couple of hours after the seemingly shut-down interview, celebrity website TMZ released dashboard-camera footage of the débâcle, complete with the the screaming headline “Reese Witherspoon arrest…DASH CAM VIDEO…crazier than you thought!”

A video: worth more than 1000 words?
They say a picture is worth 1000 words and, as one of our previous blogs explored, this is now true more than ever thanks to social media. The photo tweeted by Barack Obama as he announced his re-election, of him and his wife, has been re-tweeted 805,267 times.

But, with smartphones with screens and speakers designed for watching and filming video – think of the HTC One with its dual frontal stereo speakers – and the ground-breaking news that YouTube is launching paid subscriptions to some of its channels in the confidence that people will pay for quality content, video appears to replacing the photograph as the most powerful medium in modern PR.

No hiding it – the good, the bad and the ugly
In Witherspoon’s case, it’s a question of sitting back and watching the social sharing of her drunken diva antics begin and, in time, die down – she’s already said her piece on GMA and can’t argue with the evidence that video presents. Video works both ways, however.

Think of Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who impressed onlookers with his unexpected basketball prowess – turning his back on the basket and throwing the ball straight through the hoop as he promoted the Euroleague Final Four tournament. Perfect PR for Boris – the video flew round the twittersphere, promoting his image as the charismatic alternative to current Prime Minister, David Cameron. And video has the power to divide, such as the avidly shared take of actress Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe coming out speech which ignited passionate debate in the social sphere over whether it was a step forward or backwards for the gay community.

There’s no stopping the march of video sharing and the uptake of mobile devices with the power to film. Words and photography can be argued with to a certain extent, citing opinion, forgery or lack of clarity. Video is more tricky – it shows up the good, the bad and the ugly. This presents both opportunity and challenging charters new for the PR industry.

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