Harnessing Celebrity Support
How Celebrity Support Can Strengthen a Campaign
Why Use Celebrities
Celebrity sells. A celebrity endorsement of your campaign can make a real difference in terms of media coverage, public awareness and pressure on the relevant organisations. Celebrities set an example that people can follow and can add unique value to your organisation.
The positive benefits of celebrity endorsements include:
- Attracting new audiences;
- Raising funds by encouraging sponsorship and contributions;
- Mobilising public opinion and involvement;
- Contributing to the repositioning of an organisation in the public’s perception;
- Reinvigorating a long running campaign.
The first questions are:
- How do you identify a potential high profile supporter for your cause?
- Who is appropriate?
Factors to consider are:
Which Celebrities Can Help You
- What kind of celebrity do you want?
- Do you need celebrity endorsement at all? Consider what progress you are making and what exactly the support of a high-profile figure can contribute.
- Is your issue a matter of local concern? If so, you might want to contact a local luminary.
- 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.
Each celebrity you consider will present certain advantages and disadvantages. Before approaching celebrities, weigh up their motivations, how much effort you estimate maintaining their interest will require and how much you believe they will serve your cause.
Recruiting a Celebrity
- Target celebrities who will appeal to your organisation’s target audience. Be careful that your choice of celebrity will not trivialise the issue or undermine the message.
- Investigate which celebrities are likely to be sympathetic to your cause. Your organisation is more likely to develop long-term relationships with celebrities if they have a genuine interest or personal experience in the cause or field 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 carry a story or promote a cause better than others.
- 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, for example, whereas a ‘C’ or ‘D’ list celebrities might be much more likely to oblige.
Celebrities and their agents receive requests for them to endorse charities and appear in advertising campaigns everyday. Your organisation’s approach should be subtle but persistent and your campaign well packaged if you are to encourage celebrities to respond.
The first step is to make contact:
- Reach celebrities through their websites, agents, and your own personal contacts.
- Where possible make direct contact with the celebrity concerned. Many celebrities have agents who filter requests for support who can be an extra hurdle to overcome.
Once you make contact, explain what your organisation does and what is involved in your celebrity proposal:
- Tell celebrities what your organisation can offer them. Highlight the potential publicity benefits available through involvement with your organisation’s 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 by their very nature long term, such as child poverty. If your cause is finite, do highlight this point. Their support need not represent a long-term commitment.
Once you secure a celebrity’s backing, make them feel that their contribution matters:
How to Use Their Support
- Personalise the relationship and keep the celebrities informed about the campaigns in which they are involved.
- Follow up any celebrity activities with an appropriate acknowledgement and thank you.
- Consider making patrons of those celebrities that are especially involved in your organisation’s campaigns or have made a long-standing contribution to your organisation.
Give celebrities a range of options in terms of their involvement. Sometimes a statement is enough – you can put that on a press release. Obviously the best case scenario is if they pledge their full support but there are plenty of ways they can get involved. Be creative in your thinking. Remember that celebrities are very busy people so something that does not need to be too time-consuming is more likely to get some input. Some suggestions are:
Potential Pitfalls of Celebrity Support
- Getting celebrities to sign (and write) direct-mail appeal letters to existing and potential supporters asking for donations.
- Asking them to appear in promotional activities and campaigning appeals for television and radio.
- Speak at press conferences and interviews or as the main attraction at fundraising events.
- Participate in headline-grabbing activities that raise funds and awareness for your organisation.
- Asking them to use their network of 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.
Also, while many charities enjoy successful relationships with their celebrity endorsers, some problems have been known to arise. Ensure that your organisation considers the possible pitfalls of celebrity endorsements.
- Certain issues or campaigns do not lend themselves well to attracting celebrity endorsement and most celebrities are unlikely to support campaigns based around a taboo issue. Your organisation may also find it hard to track down suitable celebrity role models and backers for certain issues.
- 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 for those times when celebrities might 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 with the charity 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.
- 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 that the celebrity’s contribution will be worthwhile and will be seen by them to be worthwhile.
©Amnesty International Publications. Amnesty International Campaigning Manual
, 2001. 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW, United Kingdom. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT10/002/2001/en
, retrieved 2005-5-01
BBC iCan: How to Get Celebrity and High Profile Support. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ican/CelebritySupport
, retrieved 2005-5-01
BBC iCan: How to Get Celebrity and High Profile Support, http://www.mediatrust.org/training-events/training-resources/online-guides-1/guide_attracting-and-keeping-celebrity-support
, retrieved 2005-5-01