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Winona Ryder Steals the Show: Public Relations Case Study

Essay by   •  February 24, 2011  •  Case Study  •  1,047 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,589 Views

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Winona Ryder: Public Relations Case Study

By the mid-1990s, Winona Ryder, a fresh-faced young actress, was one of the most prominent screen starlets of the time. She had many hit movies under her belt, including “Heathers”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Beetle Juice”, and “Reality Bites”. Ryder, a native of Minnesota, was on top of the world. However, a few years down the line, Ryder had a brush with the law that was widely publicized. Both negative and positive outcomes stemmed from this situation.

On December 12, 2001, Ryder was stopped at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills by security guards after alarms were set off as she walked out of the store. After she was searched, she was said to have had over 20 items on her; which totaled a jaw-dropping $5, 500 worth of merchandise hidden in her shopping bags. Things took a turn for the worse when Ryder was also accused of carrying a large quantity of Valium and Demerol, two very strong painkillers, without a reported prescription. This proved a sticky situation for the once high-flying actress.

After a two-week trial, which had reportedly been delayed, Ryder was convicted on November 6, 2002 of grand theft and felony vandalism. The drug possession charges had been dropped earlier for undisclosed reasons. She was sentenced to 480 hour of community service, a payment of over $10,000 in fines, and drug/psychological therapy.

However, things were not that simple. Ryder, being such a famous face, did not have her case go unnoticed by the media. It was crucial for Ryder to put up a strong public relations campaign. But according to Larry Winokur, one of the partners in a public relations firm based in L.A. named Baker/Winokur, Ryder’s trial and circumstances were not handled very well from the beginning. Ryder did not admit to the charges right away, which was said to be one of her biggest mistakes. If she would have bargained with the District Attorney by making a bargain plea, she could have gotten off simply with some misdemeanor charges. However, Ryder, most likely being on the defense due to her celebrity status, made statements such as, “I was researching a new movie role.” Untrustworthy lies such as this led to a trial and court case. Another mistake that was made while handling this predicament was that Ryder failed to issue a public statement apologizing for her actions and asking the public, her fans and the media for forgiveness. Many celebrities follow actions such as these when they find themselves in a situation such as this. It helps the celebrity gain respect and keeps their dignity, while attempting to make the public relate to them on a more intimate level.

Another problem in this campaign was Ryder’s actions throughout the trial. On more than one occasion, Ryder arrived at the courthouse in a bright red, flashy Porsche. This was a horrible public relations move, because it made Ryder look arrogant and disrespectful at such a serious time; showed that she had enough money to buy such an expensive car; and proved her lack of repentance. The articles of clothing that Ryder wore to court were also under great speculation. She proudly wore the same brands of clothing that she had stolen from Saks Fifth Avenue. Many things were wrong with this; because it proves once again that she can afford to own these clothes and obviously, she is a fan of the brands that she was accused of stealing. These moves were not the best moves to make while trying to reach out



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