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
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
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.
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
"The mayor hoped to communicate that these real people were those not
being represented at the negotiating table."
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
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.
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.
The Edelman contract expired on the July 1 deadline for strike
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.