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5 ways to avoid a celebrity PR blunder

Celebrity PR disasters come in many forms. The most recent is rather unusual as it involves a PR company appointing a current and very high profile politician to advise clients. The news that Ruth Davidson MSP, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, had joined PR firm Tulchan brought rebukes from all sides. The PR industry’s own business body, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), said “It is simply wrong for lobbying agencies to employ legislators.” In the light of the hoo ha, Ms Davidson has since declined her new role.

While most businesses don’t employ celebrities on a permanent basis, the celebrity PR stunt is familiar. In this blog, we tell you what to be aware of when considering a celebrity involvement in your PR campaign.

Can celebrities help your campaign?

Yes, celebrities can bring value to your communications; yes, they can help you access different media and levels of coverage which might otherwise be blocked off. But before you sign that, often buttock-clenchingly expensive, contract make sure you have satisfied yourself about these questions.

1. Is a celebrity really necessary?

Sounds obvious, but it’s all too easy to get carried away with the idea that you need a celebrity to make your product launch, showroom opening, technical innovation ‘sexy’ (hateful word). What will a celebrity really bring to the event? Is it really an added value option, or frankly, an admission that you can’t think of a more creative solution yourself?

2. Does the chosen celebrity match the values of your brand and will he or she strike a chord with your target market?

All too often, it seems the celebrity is chosen because he or she is the chair’s favourite weather person. Or because someone knows someone who knows someone quite well known and they might do it cheaply.Pick your celebrity with care. You’d write a person specification if you were interviewing a new employee, so use the same logic when picking a celebrity. And remember (no names, no lawsuits), a celebrity’s value can go down as well as up. This is especially important if you are seeking a long term relationship with the celebrity as a brand ambassador.

3. Can they deliver your message articulately?

We’ve all know the drill – someone who’s beautiful, charming and engaging right up to the moment they open their mouth.If you want your celebrity to talk to people about your business, do your research. Can they take a brief, get the message right and tell your story fluently? A decent celebrity broker should discuss this element with you and give you a straight answer – after all, they want you to be a return customer. If possible, find who else has used that celebrity in the past and ask them how successful it had been.

4. Have you thought of something for the celebrity to do?

You want media coverage for this, right? Then for goodness sake, come up with a better picture idea than a line of suits with a vaguely famous person standing in the middle.

5. Are they too famous?

Seems daft, but a big budget is no guarantee of success. The celebrity is there to amplify you story, not to become the story themselves. It can be helpful if the celebrity is in the news already, but not if their story will completely overshadow yours. Rugby Union people are popular at present precisely because the media does want access to ask them about the 2019 World Cup, but it is not such a hot topic that you will not be able to get your message across at the same time.

So, use celebrities wisely and you’ll enjoy your PR.

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