The theater lights dim, the movie rolls, and you settle in to watch a teenage love story starring…Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep? A heart-wrenching drama starring Seth Rogen? A Lassie remake starring Grumpy Cat? Yup, casting is important. And this is every bit as true for celebrity-driven PR campaigns as for movies.
You need someone who fits the part: someone your target audience will embrace and believe as your brand’s ambassador. The difference, of course, is that in order for celebrity-driven PR campaigns to be successful, they can’t be faked, no matter how good a performer the celebrities are. He or she must have a natural connection and/or passion for the brand category, and ideally for your brand itself.
This is also where celebrity-driven PR campaigns differ from advertising campaigns. Sure, you can pay a random celebrity a boatload of money to shoot a TV commercial (think Kendall Jenner for Pepsi), but that won’t work in the PR world where budgets are much smaller and where celebrity-driven PR campaigns are expected to be organic.
At CurrentPR, we take a very strategic approach to our “casting process.” It begins with developing a set of criteria specific to each brand, including celebrity demos and lifestyle, social numbers, timing and availability, among other factors.
We also consider the potential motivations of a particular celebrity: Is he debuting on a new TV show or releasing a new book and therefore interested in promotion? Does she need a product or service (like a designer gown or high-end jewelry for an upcoming red carpet event) that your brand can provide?
Finally, we get creative and stay realistic in our search. You don’t want someone who is either over-exposed in the media, over-committed to other brand partners, or over-priced for your budget. “Mega” film stars, for example, rarely do PR campaigns, so just take Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Downey, Jr. off your list right now. In contrast, our most successful celebrity-driven PR campaigns tend to be with television personalities as well as rising or comeback stars who share the values of the client’s brand.
Case in point: in 2012, Ariana Grande was our first choice when we were searching for the perfect Little Red-Haired Girl for our Peanuts Valentine’s Day celebration on social media. (At the time, she had red hair due to her role on the Nickelodeon show, “Victorious!”) And luckily she was thrilled to collaborate with Snoopy! Fast forward to 2018 and her worldwide superstardom and more than 56 million followers on Twitter and…need I say more?
To further illustrate the method to our madness, we put together a short list of celebrities we think are ripe for collaborations in 2018.
Beauty: Katie Maloney
If anyone is ripe for the picking for celebrity-driven PR campaigns, it’s Katie Maloney from Vanderpump Rules. She’s not only a star on the hit Bravo reality series, she’s also the creator of Pucker & Pout, a popular beauty, wellness, and lifestyle blog. In addition, her social numbers are more than decent and she shows up regularly in the celebrity weeklies. The icing on the cake? Her publicist is a joy to work with, too!
Food: Haylie Duff
Although she’s perhaps best known as Summer Wheatley in the 2004 cult classic Napoleon Dynamite, Haylie Duff is also an accomplished chef and cookbook author. Several years ago, her food and lifestyle blog, Real Girl’s Kitchen, evolved into both a book and a Cooking Channel show. In addition, Haylie is the proud momma of two-year old daughter Ryan, who inspired her to launch her own baby apparel line last year. Note to foodies: You’d better hurry up and contact Haylie before the fashionistas get hold of her first!
Home Décor: Josh Altman
Interior designers aside, who knows more about creating an inviting ambience for a house than a real estate agent? That’s why we like Josh Altman, one of the cocky Beverly Hills real estate agents from Bravo’s long-running Million Dollar Listing LA reality show. Check out this link to his baby girl’s new nursery and you’ll be convinced, too. Sure, it’s a little over the top but we like the whimsical attitude and attention to detail. Josh’s social numbers are solid, providing plenty of opportunities to cross-promote in the digital realm, and his wife, Heather, is also a real estate agent featured on the TV show, so that’s potentially double the PR exposure.
Pets: Laura Wright
Okay, full transparency here. We (on behalf of our client, ASPCA) have already collaborated with the fabulous Laura Wright from ABC’s beloved soap opera, General Hospital. Laura was a perfect match for us in many ways.
Although she’s known as an avid dog lover, Laura was not affiliated with any other national animal charities at the time—which is rare at a time when many celebrities have their own “pet” charities, excuse the pun. Since Laura works on a regular TV shooting schedule, she knew in advance when she would have time to participate in our marketing photo session with her and her dogs. She was also available for media interviews and enthusiastically posted about the campaign on her own robust social platforms. She even secured a General Hospital backstage tour for the winner of the contest we ran in conjunction with the fundraiser. Laura continues to be one of our all-time favorite celebrity collaborators and we know she’d be perfect for a healthy dog food brand or pet store chain.
Tech: Sam Esmail
Don’t assume that the celebrity needs to be prominent in front of the camera to work for a brand collaboration. Nowadays, some TV and film creators are as well-known as their casts. (Shonda Rhimes, and Kurt Sutter are two great examples.) With this in mind, we like Sam Esmail, the creator of USA’s Mr. Robot, for tech brands. As the producer of the red-hot series about “a young programmer working as a cyber-security engineer by day, and a vigilante hacker by night,” Sam’s obviously very digital-savvy. In fact, his Wikipedia bio backs this up; apparently he got his first computer at age nine and started writing code a few years later. While his socials are still a work-in-progress, Sam brings credibility and cult-status to any PR opportunity—and it doesn’t hurt that he’s married to Emmy Rossum, either.
Travel: Andrew McCarthy
Not everyone knows that ’80s heartthrob Andrew McCarthy, known for iconic movies like Pretty in Pink and Less Than Zero, has become a globetrotting travel writer for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Travel+Leisure. He’s also editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler and the author of two books, including a travel memoir, The Longest Way Home. With his pedigree, who cares if McCarthy’s socials could use a slight boost? And there may be a few challenges negotiating potential journalistic conflicts of interest or finding space in his busy schedule as a sought-after TV director for shows like Orange is the New Black! But if we represented a first-class travel brand right now, we’d be calling his publicist ASAP.
And a few more bonus ideas: Francesca Capaldi* (teen-centric brands), Rob Dyrdek (baby products), James Maslow* (men’s apparel), Danielle Fishel (women’s apparel), Tia and Tamera Mowrey* (mom brands) and Fred Savage (dad brands).
Finding the right celebrity match for a PR campaign is not always a quick or simple process. But when it works, it’s a sweet way for a brand to share the glow of that white-hot spotlight.
* CurrentPR has already enjoyed a successful collaboration with this celebrity.