West Hollywood has long been a leader in LGBT rights. Amy Anderson, communications director at the West Hollywood Marketing & Visitors Bureau (WHMVB), says the LGBT community was instrumental in founding the city in 1984. And when the California Supreme Court lifted the ban on same-sex marriage on May 15 of this year, Anderson helped to harness and shape publicity for the 1.9-square-mile city.
"We knew we'd have a lot of marketing opportunities and that people would be looking to us to see what we're doing," she explains. "We're not typically a destination for weddings and honeymoons."
Anderson, a Minneapolis native, has a journalism background and worked in media monitoring for five years. The progressive culture of West Hollywood attracted Anderson, who is gay, to the area six years ago. She started as a marketing associate at the WHMVB in 2004 and was promoted to her current position in early 2007.
"I was passionate about West Hollywood," she says. "I thought it would be a perfect fit to market something I was already passionate about."
Anderson has long been interested in media, travel, and entertainment, and her job combines elements of all three. West Hollywood is home and playground to many stars, and she was thrilled to attend her first Oscar party as a WHMVB rep in 2005. She notes that media are al-ways interested in the celebrity angle and that she has to walk a fine line between visitor interest in the stars and protecting their privacy.
Actor George Takei (of Star Trek fame) was one of the first gay stars to get a marriage license in West Hollywood. His plans to marry his long-time partner later this year garnered international attention.
"We promote the celebrity angle, but aren't showy about it," Anderson says. "We didn't have anything to do with George, but we benefit from the celebrity attention."
Anderson is always cultivating relationships with media, community leaders, and visitors. WHMVB regularly hosts journalists, while Anderson travels to feeder markets about once a month to meet with them.
Brad Burlingame, WHMVB's president and CEO, praises Anderson's ability to build relationships and bring a positive perspective to telling West Hollywood's story.
"Amy is young, smart, personable, and stylish - she matches well with promoting this destination," he says. "She understands opportunities and seizes them. Gay marriage is exciting for this community and it's a political watershed moment." That Anderson is gay gives her the opportunity to help the media understand the important messages that go with gay marriage, Burlingame adds.
WHMVB is progressive in using new media, and Anderson's own interest in the area plays a key part.
"A [journalist once] asked if we were on MySpace," she recalls. "We weren't, [but] I thought we should be. I have my own MySpace page, so I started [the WHMVB page] on my own."
WHMVB has always marketed the city as an LGBT destination and will continue to positively position and promote the gay-marriage angle.
"The media world is changing," Anderson says. "As travel pieces merge more into entertainment features, I'll be finding more real people stories."
WHMVB, various roles.
Currently director of comms (since Feb. 2007)
May 2004-July 2004
E Entertainment Television, freelance PA and admin. for Style Network