A common PR tactic I see used in many award-winning campaigns and much of the work we’ve done with clients over the years is using spokespeople. And I’m not just referring to the product managers, C-suite and marketing team we usually have access to with clients – I’m talking about third-party spokespeople who lend their credibility to a brand.
Last month I attended the PRSA Chicago February event: “Entertainment PR: Leveraging and Building Celebrity Brands,” where the local PR community heard from a panel of industry professionals including agents, an entertainment PR lawyer and a talent agency. Here are what I believe to be five key takeaways:
1. Be Flexible. Just because a project doesn’t have a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars doesn’t mean you have to automatically eliminate the possibility of working with a spokesperson – but it does mean that you’ll have to be a little more flexible and creative. Find a celebrity with an issue or cause that can be a win-win for both parties.
2. Look for “Peripheral” Celebrities. There are plenty of people who have public credibility either because they were once famous or because they know someone famous. Most sports teams, for example, have ambassador programs which require athletic alumni to make appearances within the community and remain in the public eye. There also are celebrities who create their own status from being a friend (e.g. Gayle King via Oprah) and are willing to take on more spokesperson duties simply because they are trying to build their own brand.
3. Get Social. To many in the entertainment industry social media reputation is just as important – if not more so than traditional media. A follower or fan count becomes almighty to someone trying to build his or her own brand so if you can show the person how you’ll help build his or her community, a social media partnerships becomes an even easier ask. Start by interacting with your desired spokesperson and make it easy for him or her to incorporate your brand into an Instagram post or Tweet. Especially if what you’re asking for is a “warm and fuzzy” moment tied to a charity or good story – without too much commercial branding – many people are willing to help you with social efforts for little or no cost.
4. Make it a Match. Start by finding celebrities via charities that align with your brand – that helps to identify the person’s core values. Next make sure to do a proper media audit and study how that person comes across in interviews and stories – that can help set expectations for the relationship and what you’ll be able to ask for out of the partnership. Finally, build a trust and be a real human with the person – they’ll be more likely to want to “give” on certain parts of the contract and help make it a beneficial relationship for you both.
5. Set Expectations. The more “famous” the celebrity, the less you can expect from the relationship at an even higher cost than you probably anticipate. A contract is a must but it’s not iron-clad, make sure beyond the trade agreement that there is a mutual understanding for the nitty gritty (e.g. how early do they need to be at an event?). If it’s not in literal terms, don’t expect it will go the way you think it will. Be prepared for all kinds of scenarios and upfront with what you want.