Campaign: New York hotel workers win over Israeli tycoon - Lobbying

Campaign: Save the Plaza New York Client: New York Hotel Workers' Union PR team: Ruder Finn Israel Timescale: March to April 2005 Budget: Under $15,000 (£8,450)

In 2004, Elad Properties, headed by Israeli tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva, bought the Plaza New York hotel for $675m.

It announced plans to convert the historic building into 200 luxury apartments, with retail space and a small number of hotel rooms.

As this move would see the Plaza's interior extensively remodelled, with the loss of 900 jobs, the New York Hotel Workers' Union launched a campaign to thwart the conversion.

As part of this initiative the union hired Ruder Finn Israel for media relations, to sway opinion in Tshuva's home country.

Objectives

To bring the campaign to the forefront of the Israeli business world, while preventing the loss of hundreds of jobs and protecting the hotel's renowned interior spaces.

Strategy and Plan

As Tshuva was perceived as an Israeli business icon - a successful entrepreneur who had made it big on the global stage - Ruder Finn focused on the human and moral aspects of the proposed conversion. To create initial interest, the PR team circulated teasers to the Israeli media, announcing that a major New York labour dispute was coming to town.

Ruder Finn then exposed audiences to the faces of those who would suffer as a result of Elad's plans by flying two Plaza employees to Israel - Neil Scott Johnson and Luis Burreli - for a media tour. To maintain interest, this activity was backed up by the daily release of information updates.

The team also set up a meeting and photo opportunity in Tel Aviv with Johnson and Burreli, as well as Amir Peretz, a senior Israeli political figure and head of the national workers' union, Histadrut.

Following an earlier approach by Ruder Finn, Peretz wrote the Plaza workers a letter of support and mobilised his own PR department to generate additional media exposure.

Ruder Finn further promoted the story within the large international press corps concentrated in Jerusalem, and placed an opinion piece in the name of the visiting workers in daily newspaper Maariv, which included a direct appeal to Tshuva.

Measurement and Evaluation

The Plaza workers appeared on Israel's leading evening TV news shows, as well as in the country's leading business and general newspapers and their websites, including Ha'aretz, The Marker and The Jerusalem Post.

In total, the campaign produced 38 articles, 27 online pieces and five televised reports.

Results

Tshuva eventually conceded to the unions' demands and revised his plans.

A significant portion of the Plaza will remain open as a hotel, saving around 400 jobs, while interior spaces such as the Grand Ballroom and Palm Court will be preserved.

Former Jerusalem Post business writer Zev Stub says the PR team was helpful in providing access to the Plaza workers. He adds: 'A lot of our readers are immigrants from the US, so they have a special interest in the way New York plays into Israeli business considerations.'

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