Celebrities at face value


Several of my recent posts have discussed building relationships and putting a human face on your organization. While perusing the blogosphere this week, I came across a post by Nedra Weinreich on her blog “Spare Change” about literally putting a face on your organization with a celebrity spokesperson. She highlighted some important pieces of advice, such as:

  • Make sure the celebrity is prepared to speak intelligently about the issue.
  • Work through the celebrity’s publicist, not their agent.
  • Prepare the celebrity to deal with any controversial questions that may arise from their affiliation with your organization.
  • Understand what motivations the celebrity has for being involved. In other words, do they have a genuine belief in the message or are they just doing it to look good?

Of course, this is all based on the assumption that using a celebrity is right for your organization in the first place. Celebrities attract attention; they can give your organization star power. But not all donors are interested in the concept of celebrity. Some people are turned off by it. It would be smart to first consider why you’re using a celebrity spokesperson; then you will be equipped to select a celebrity that can help accomplish your specific objectives.

In an advertising class last term, we discussed some other guides to follow when choosing a celebrity spokesperson for promotional work. I’m kicking myself now for not keeping better track of my notes, but from what I remember, it’s more important to your audience whether the celebrity is credible than how famous or beautiful they are. Do they know what they’re talking about? Do they walk the walk in addition to the talk? Are they in it for the long run? The product and celebrity need to be congruent – how congruent depends, again, on your audience. The gist of it is: Does it make sense? Using a celebrity that has little to do with your mission may do more harm than good.

And let’s not forget the threat of the celebrity scandal! Putting a face on your organization can be a liability as much as an asset. When pictures of Kate Moss surfaced showing the supermodel allegedly snorting cocainesurfaced in the British tabloids, Burberry, H&M, Chanel and others quickly dropped her contracts. Aligning your organization with a celebrity can put you at major risk of a similar situation.

Inviting a celebrity to attend an event as a guest, speaker, or performer carries significantly less risk, but certain considerations should still be made. I believe that, as with the rest of the event planning and preparations, some strategic thinking should go into any special celebrity guests.

And who knows – if you’re lucky, the right celebrity might begin as a special guest and develop into an engaged, active proponent of your organization.

Does anyone have any experience working with celebrity guests? I would love to hear your stories, advice, and feedback.

Image of Operation Smile Youth Ambassador Jessica Simpson courtesy of http://www.happynews.com


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Nedra said,

    Thanks for your link to my post. You’re absolutely right that choosing to work with a celebrity has to align with your organization’s strategy and audience. The credibility of your spokesperson is key, and another type of person other than a celebrity (e.g., peer, doctor, etc) might be much more effective.

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