The influence of “celebrity” is ever-growing in today’s celebrity-fixated society, in everything from politics to philanthropy. Celebrities have proven they have the power to generate excitement and their social capital is sought out by media, as well as brands hoping to appeal to consumers.
Many companies clamor for the clout of a heavyweight actor or actress, or musician or model to be a part of their PR campaigns. And with good reason. Consumers take note of celebrities and their activities, and it is widely believed to result in better “stickiness” for brands and campaigns. Though consumers may not immediately mirror celebrity actions, the implied celebrity endorsement is remembered and increases a brand’s odds at the next purchase.
WHY USE CELEBRITIES?
Celebrities carry a great appeal to PR practitioners as they can help to achieve traditional PR goals:
• Convincing consumers of a brand’s credibility;
• Creating appeal with a specific desired target audience;
• Establishing a consumer connection with the brand as “a brand for me”;
• Getting beyond the competition and clutter; and
• Getting maximum coverage for a brand
While they used to be called “celebrity endorser” or “celebrity spokesperson,” the language has now morphed into friendly labels like “Brand Ambassador or Activist,” “Brand Champion” and even “Brand Fan.” Using these celebrities for advertising campaigns is extraordinarily costly, but participation in public relations campaigns, particularly those that are associated with cause, is often more palatable for celebs and their “people” (manager, publicist or agent).
THE SELECTION PROCESS
Using celebrities in integrated marketing campaigns has even become part of the vernacular in academia. A textbook method, which neatly sums up an effective way to help choose the best celebrity for your brand, is the TEARS Model —an acronym for five desired attributes of endorsers:
• Similarity (to the target audience)
Coyne PR Beauty & Fashion and Entertainment teams have used this method in selecting and media-training spokespeople for our clients, including: Melissa Etheridge for an annual Breast Cancer Awareness and Fundraising initiative for Hard Rock Cafes; Ke$ha and Karmin for media interviews to discuss their relationship with Casio; country music icons Martina McBride and Jewel to work on a Domestic Violence Awareness campaign for cause champion Mary Kay Cosmetics; and Cee-Lo Green for the new Meow Mix jingle.
When considering a celebrity as part of an initiative, it is important to follow several important “checks and balances” to ensure that match is right, believable and on-brand, so all your bases are covered:
â–¶ Conduct a Thorough Background Check: Review their history, past affiliations and fan club chatter. Some brands don’t want to be associated with a celeb that smokes, lives with their boyfriend out of wedlock or throws phones at their assistants.
â–¶ Check For Relevancy: Do they mean something to your brand or product? If representing a health issue, have they been affected by this issue personally?
â–¶ Ensure there are no conflicts: Are they already working with a competing or likeminded brand, have they recently, have they ever?
â–¶ Media Appeal/Newsworthiness: Do they have any upcoming projects (book, movie or TV series) that would increase their interest with the media? Are they a tabloid favorite or a regular in women’s magazines? Does the public “like” them or “love to hate” them?
â–¶ What’s the Worth? How will hiring this celebrity help you achieve your goals? Is it strategic to hire one movie star, or is it smarter to spread the budget amongst a handful of reality stars that will help tell your story in a favorable light?
â–¶ Willingness to Do Media: Will this celebrity work with you to achieve your goals and deliver your message? Are they “on board” with your communication platform and willing to talk to the media or just participate in photo opportunities?
Since celebrities can add value and sizzle to a campaign, public relations professionals need to engage them with gusto, but also with caution. Ensure that the celebrity lines up with the personality of the brand and can add to the ultimate objective of the project—to raise the overall awareness of a brand initiative.
Deborah Sierchio is vice president at Coyne PR, overseeing its beauty, fashion, entertainment and retail divisions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.