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...
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