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PR firm helps Cleveland kidnap victims thank the public

July 9, 2013

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, who were held captive for nearly a decade in a Cleveland home, have released a video thanking the public for their continued support.

The three women broke their public silence in the 3-minute, 33-second video that Cleveland-based Hennes Paynter Communications created and posted to YouTube last night.

Each of the women appeared separately in the video, with Berry and Knight each making a brief statement, while DeJesus answered questions from someone off camera, followed by her father, Felix DeJesus, and then her mother, Nancy Ruiz.

On its website, Hennes Paynter leaders explained why they released the video in this manner:

“There have been numerous requests from the media to interview or speak with Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. In response to those requests, please understand this: Ms. Berry, Ms. DeJesus, and Ms. Knight will not be participating in any interviews or speaking with any representatives of the media at this time, for the following reasons.

“First, there is a pending criminal investigation and prosecution. Ms. Berry, Ms. DeJesus, and Ms. Knight are witnesses and victims in that proceeding. It is not in the best interests of anyone connected with that proceeding for Ms. Berry, Ms. DeJesus, and Ms. Knight to be making statements to the media while that proceeding is pending.”

Agency leaders say there might be a time in the future when the three “will want to tell their stories.”

The way that the agency managed the video drew quick praise in the media.

 “Kudos to Hennes-Paynter for presenting the women as more than victims and providing the world with compelling evidence of their recovery,” PRNewser wrote. “This is what media crisis communications is all about.

According to Addy Dugdale at Fast Company: “[I]t’s a genius move by the public relations firm Hennes Paynter Communications, giving the women total control.”

Neighbors helped free the women on May 6 after Berry cried out for help from behind a closed screen door. Ariel Castro has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment charging him of kidnapping the women and holding them captive in his house. His pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 24.


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