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Support It | Chapter Three

Call in the Celebrities


THE BASICS

Celebrity sells. A star's endorsement of your campaign can make a real difference in media coverage, public awareness and pressure on the relevant organisations. Well-known personalities can set an example that others will follow, and they can add unique value to your organisation.


SNAPSHOT: BENEFITS OF A CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT

  • Attract new audiences
  • Raise funds by encouraging sponsorship and contributions
  • Mobilise public opinion and involvement
  • Contribute to the repositioning of an organisation in the public’s perception
  • Reinvigorate a long-running campaign


WHICH CELEBRITIES CAN HELP YOU?

What kind of celebrity do you want? Each one you consider will present certain advantages and disadvantages. Before approaching a star, weigh their motivations, how much effort it will take you to maintain their interest, and how much you believe they will serve your cause. Consider that you may not need an endorsement at all. What progress are you making without an endorsement, and what might a high-profile figure contribute?
  • Match targets Target celebrities who will appeal to your organisation’s target audience. Be careful that your choice of celebrity won’t trivialise the issue or undermine the message.
  • Do your homework Investigate which celebrities are likely to be sympathetic to your cause. Your organisation is more likely to develop long-term relationships with those who have a genuine interest or personal experience in the cause they will be promoting. Research potential celebrity endorsers to ensure that their histories will not come into conflict with your organisation or generate negative publicity.
  • See who is already speaking out Are there already high-profile figures speaking out in support of freedom of expression? If so, you might be able to elicit their support for your particular campaign.
  • Go local Is your issue a matter of local concern? If so, you might want to contact a local luminary.
  • Add value Celebrities should add value to your story. Think about how they will make a difference. Avoid seeking celebrity endorsements simply for the sake of having famous names tagged to your campaign.
  • Be pragmatic Many celebrities view charity work as essential to their self-promotion thus not all those who accept your appeals for help will be altruistically motivated. However, this should not detract from the potential benefits that celebrity endorsements might offer your organisation. High-profile celebrities wearing your organisation’s logo in magazine features, for example, will attract the kind of attention that both parties desire.
  • Be careful about complex roles If you intend to employ celebrities as ambassadors or spokespersons—roles that take them beyond the remits of a promotional campaign—consider whom you approach. Certain celebrities are more adept at handling complex issues and will promote a cause better than others.
  • Be realistic Be realistic about the size of your organisation, the issues you want celebrities to campaign for and the tasks you would like them to perform. A-list celebrities are unlikely to attend coffee mornings in aid of local charities, whereas C- or D-list celebrities might be more likely to oblige.

3 STEPS TO RECRUITING A CELEBRITY

Every day celebrities and their agents receive requests to endorse charities and appear in advertising campaigns. To encourage a response, take a subtle but persistent approach and package your campaign well.

STEP 1:

Make contact

  • Reach celebrities through their websites, agents, and your own personal contacts.
  • Where possible, make direct contact. Many have agents who filter requests, which may present an extra hurdle.

STEP 2:

Explain Your request

  • Tell celebrities what your organisation can offer them. Highlight the potential publicity benefits available through involvement with your campaign.
  • Be specific about what you want celebrities to do for your organisation. Will the celebrities simply be involved in one campaign or would you like to foster a relationship which sees them emerge as the face of your organisation?
  • Quite often, the causes that celebrities lend their support to are long-term, such as child poverty. If your cause is finite, do highlight this point. Their support need not represent a long-term commitment.

STEP 3:

Show how their support matters

  • Once you get a star to back your campaign, personalise the relationship and keep him or her informed about the campaign’s progress.
  • Follow up any celebrity activities with an appropriate acknowledgement and thank you.
  • Consider making patrons of those celebrities who are especially involved in your campaigns or have made a long-standing contribution to your organisation.


HOW TO USE CELEBRITY SUPPORT

Give celebrities a range of ways to be involved. Obviously the best-case scenario is if a star pledges her full support, but sometimes a statement for a press release is enough. Think creatively. Remember that celebrities are busy so you're more likely to gain support with something that isn't too time-consuming. Some suggestions are:
  • Getting celebrities to sign (and write) direct-mail letters appealing for donations from existing and potential supporters.
  • Asking them to appear in promotional activities and campaigning appeals for TV and radio.
  • Speaking at press conferences and interviews or fundraising events.
  • Participating in headline-grabbing activities that raise funds and awareness.
Asking them to use their contacts to get support for your organisation. The participation of celebrities in campaigning activities and media conferences can create media interest in events which might otherwise attract less publicity.


POTENTIAL PITFALLS OF CELEBRITY SUPPORT

While many charities enjoy successful relationships with their celebrity endorsers, be sure to consider the drawbacks:
  • Certain campaigns do not lend themselves to attracting celebrity endorsement, and most stars are unlikely to support campaigns based around a taboo issue.
  • Be wary of over-dependence on celebrity backers and ensure that fame and publicity do not overshadow your organisation’s central campaign message.
  • Devise a contingency plan in case celebrities attract unwanted and potentially damaging media attention. Be prepared to respond to the media and decide under which circumstances to support celebrities and when to distance your organisation from them.
  • Prepare your approach for dealing with demanding celebrities. For high-profile and costly campaigns, consider asking celebrity backers to sign contracts which set out the terms and conditions of their work. In general, charities do not pay celebrities. You should, however, aim to cover expenses, including travel and accommodation.


TIPS: WORKING WITH STARS

  • Be clear about what you want done, when and why.
  • Be clear about what support you are able to provide.
  • Be clear whether or not a fee or expenses will be paid.
  • Supply as much background information as necessary.
  • Make sure the celebrity’s contribution will be worthwhile, and be sure to highlight to the star the difference that she or he is making.

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