CAMPAIGNS: Entertainment PR - Mayor helps keep Hollywood at work

Client: Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan

PR Team: Edelman Public Relations, Los Angeles and the Mayor's Office

Campaign: Impact of Hollywood labor disputes on the LA economy

Time Frame: Late March 2001 - May 4, 2001

Budget: $75,000 (approximately)



By the middle of last March, back-to-back strikes by unions representing

screenwriters and actors loomed on the Hollywood horizon, threatening to

halt Tinseltown in its tracks and to cripple the southern California

economy. Meanwhile, many people - even Los Angeles-area residents -

viewed the imminent strike as a trivial matter affecting only the show

biz elite.



LA Mayor Richard Riordan, however, recognized the devastating ripple

effect an entertainment industry walkouts would have on the regional

economy, and he decided to take action to help avert such a situation.

To that end, Riordan's office commissioned a study by Sebago Associates

and the Milken Institute to calculate the financial loss that would

result from strikes by either or both the Writers Guild and the Screen

Actors Guild.



In addition, Deputy Mayor Ben Austin hired the public affairs team from

Edelman Public Relations/LA to broadcast the resulting economic impact

findings to the public and media at large.



Strategy



Armed with study data that clearly illustrated the debilitating costs of

a writers' walkout, Riordan's office and the Edelman team adopted a

strategy of humanizing the data with real faces and real stories.



"We were hoping to educate the public about who is the true face of the

entertainment industry - these are very hardworking people who live very

middle-class lives," explains Edelman deputy GM and SVP John

Stodder.



"The mayor hoped to communicate that these real people were those not

being represented at the negotiating table."



Tactics



Executing the two-tiered strategy required a combination of one-on-one

interviews and splashy media events. The mayor kicked off media outreach

by giving an exclusive interview to the Los Angeles Times, in which he

announced that an economic impact study had been commissioned. On the

day that story ran in the Times, a press release announcing the study

was also distributed on the news wires.



Two weeks later, Edelman and the mayor's office staged a press

conference at city hall that included the mayor, the study's author, and

several local business leaders to announce and discuss the research

results. Shortly after that, the team held a press conference,

introducing local small-business people describing how the strikes would

impact their livelihood.



Another press conference was held at a prop rental shop in North

Hollywood.



Mayor Riordan appeared with the owner of the shop, along with all of the

owner's vendors. The resulting photo was distributed on the wires and

was subsequently picked up in newspapers across the country.



Results



The Mayor's campaign received an amazing amount of press coverage, from

stories in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, as well as on the

local news, CNN, and CNBC. CNN Moneyline correspondent Casy Wian even

cited "public, persistent pressure by Mayor Riordan" as one of three

main reasons the strikes might be averted. Similarly, a follow-up story

in the Los Angeles Times credited a "publicity campaign by Edelman

Public Relations" surrounding the mayor's efforts as one of the major

factors in the dispute's resolution.



"We were able to use the bully pulpit of the mayor's office not only to

educate the public about the implications of a strike, but to

strategically put pressure on either side at the bargaining table,"

points out Deputy Mayor Ben Austin.



Future



The Edelman contract expired on the July 1 deadline for strike

negotiations.



On July 3, the Screen Actors Guild, together with the American

Federation of TV and Radio Actors, came to an agreement with the

Alliance of Motion Pictures and TV Producers, which averted a strike.



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