The Rise of Celebrity Endorsement

David Beckham, Cheryl Cole, Iggy Pop and Uma Thurman are just four of the hundreds of celebrities that have endorsed a product or service. In the most part these endorsements have been successful but there are a few that don’t end so well.

Celebrity endorsements are in no way a new strategy, according to a BBC article Queen Victoria can be traced back to endorsing a medicine patent in the early 19th Century. Endorsements of any kind are an effective way for you to build trust, reputation and brand loyalty by association, but in recent years celebrity endorsement has become big business. Products can range from cars and makeup to windows and doors and often the link between product and celebrity can be rather tenuous, but never the less endorsements are here to stay.

The more popular a celebrity becomes the more ‘valuable’ they are to companies as an endorser. Today popularity is often measured in how many followers someone has on Twitter or Likes on Facebook, but good old fashioned talent like David Beckham’s football skills are still a good basis for popularity. Arguably the ‘hottest’ celebrity of the moment is Lady Gaga, she has entered into an endorsement with Polaroid to boost their image and bring the brand firmly into the future. Although a relatively new deal, rather unexpectedly there is a synergy between GaGa and Polaroid and the relationship seems to be helping Polaroid regain some market share.

Although sometimes the link between celebrity and product is hard to see, the best endorsements are when the celebrity has a strong link with the company. For example Michael Jordan and Nike an association that has lasted for nearly 30 years, is still going strong with new Jordan shoes being released each year with much anticipation. More recently Twiggy has become the face of Marks and Spencers bringing a more glamorous side to the chain and inspiring older women to dress more like the model and singer. Jamie Oliver has also boosted the image of a British chain store with his endorsement of Sainsburys, both Twiggy and Jamie have strong links to their endorsers which is why the partnerships have lasted and become valuable enhancers to the brands.

There are as expected some disasters from celebrity endorsements. Celebrities like everyone else are only human, and they too make mistakes however when they have signed a multimillion pound endorsement deal with a company, the ripples of their mistakes spread wider than just themselves. Some historic endorsement mishaps include the recent downfall of Golf’s golden boy Tiger Woods. When his multiple affairs and car crash hit the headlines Woods was immediately dropped from his deals with General Motors and Gatorade quickly followed by Gillette and Nike. His infidelity and recklessness had ruined his own reputation and his endorsers didn’t want to be tarred with the same brush. Similarly when Kate Moss was pictured on the front of The Daily Mirror taking cocaine both H&M and Channel ended their relationship with the model. Large organisations like Gillette and Channel cannot afford to be associated with celebrities’ bad behaviour. In time though both of these celebrities have ‘cleaned up’ their acts and have entered into new endorsement deals as their popularity has risen, Kate Moss may even be doing better with her own clothing range in Top Shop and Rimmel endorsement deals.

There are some do’s and don’ts to celebrity endorsements:

Do make sure there is a link between the celebrity you are associating with. If you want the endorsement to be successful and have longevity use a celebrity that fits in with your brand’s vision and reputation.

Do monitor the endorsement. If you can spot early on your celebrity wavering in popularity or any drastic changes in behaviour, it’s better to end your association before you find your celebrity on the front of the paper.

Don’t jump on the band wagon with a celebrity, try to choose a someone that doesn’t already have associations with other brands.

Don’t rely solely on celebrity endorsement. If you don’t have an already good brand identity using a celebrity isn’t going to improve that.

As long as the world is obsessed by fame and celebrity, celebrity endorsement is here to stay. This is in no way a bad thing, as long as organisations choose the right celebrities for their brands and celebrities behave themselves endorsement deals are good business. It’s a risky investment, but if you get it right the benefits can be huge on the flip side if you get it wrong it can be very detrimental especially for an established brand. Ultimately you need to make the decision whether using a celebrity is the right thing for your brand.

February’s MAG!

February’s issue of MAG is out NOW!

It is packed full of listings for the month as well as an interview with the fantastic Funeral For A Friend, a review of Rufio Summer’s new EP and a profile of local band Young Kato. As well as some helpful hints for all the men of Gloucestershire on what to get their loved one for Valentine’s day courtesy of Keziah Kurg at ByLocal.

We’re also back in print, so keep an eye out for it across the county in pubs, clubs, shops and colleges.

Audit: find out if your PR is working for you

In my last post I looked at some online programs that you can use to research prospective and current clients and I have also posted about social media auditing and the importance of keeping tabs of your social media presence. These are both important for the public relations of businesses but what about the wider opportunities of auditing?

Auditing is integral for any business and can look into every aspect of an organisation, a public relations audit will specifically look at how you are being put across to the public, your brand value and reputation and in these tough financial times can asses how effective your PR strategy really is. It is often easy to forget that there is a world outside of the online augmented reality we have created for ourselves, so I’m going to briefly look into audit measures for both on and offline PR.

In a general auditing sense there is a cycle that is often followed and in it’s simplest form follows 4 steps: Planning, Audit, Analysis & Reporting. These 4 steps are the basics when carrying out any audit and are easily applied to a PR audit whether it be on or offline.The following are brief guides to some of the points I would include in an audit, they are not every step that should be taking, but in my opinion are some of the most important.

Online

Consistency is Key: it cannot be stressed enough that all URLS, domain names, Facebook pages and groups, Twitter accounts, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles are owned and maintained by the company themselves. There are various stories of companies that have discovered their .com is being used by another person, not only is it confusing for consumers but it can be potentially damagimng to a company’s reputation. This also goes for branding across sites, make sure you have a style book that is available to all employees so any logos used are always consistent with the company branding.

Integration: with new social networking sites popping up every 5 minutes, integrating all of these with your website is a very good idea. There are programs out there including HootSuite that can do this for you, linking all of your social media profiles on one dashboard so you can update them all simultaneously. It really is becoming too easy not to do this.

SEO: search engine optimisation or SEO as the jargon junkies like to call it essentially ensures that when you type your company name or area of business in to Google (other search engines are available) that the top hit is your website, followed by your Facebook, Twitter etc etc.

Unfinished business: there is nothing worse than getting to a company’s website and discovering that there is a gaping hole on the landing page or the contact details are missing. This is the same for Facebook pages/groups, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, it is essential that your social media and websites have all the company’s information on and

Maintenance: where possible maintenance to any sites should be done at low traffic times so as not to inconvenience consumers. House of Fraser for example carry out maintenance at 4:00am to avoid loosing customers.

Measurement: In my previous post I profiled some programs that you can use to track aclients, as well as being good for research purposes they are also good ways to measure your social media, collating information including how many followers or likes you have, mentions you are receiving as well in some cases the sentiment behind these mentions.

Offline

On and off: another point of consistency is to ensure that your offline profile is the same as your online. This includes messages and branding, the last thing you want to do is confuse your customers when they are looking for you in the real world after researching you online.

Inside and out: sometimes it is easy to forget that your employees are just as important as your customers. Your employees need to be singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak as the PR campaign for the company is to ensure that the same messages are being put across.

The media and your messages: as with social media measurement and monitoring it is integral to do the same with traditional media. Look into your recent media coverage including print, television and radio and see if the messages and reputation you are trying to maintain are what are being included in the coverage.

Auditing is not a one off and it certainly isn’t a quick task, but it is something that will benefit a company in the long run. It is important to carry out PR audits to ensure that you are portraying the right image to the public as well as knowing that the money you are spending on your PR program is well spent. A lot of these auditing measures can be ongoing tasks which will ensure that you are always on top of your PR activity.

For more extensive guides to PR auditing both on and offline I found the following useful:

Cindy Kim РThe Marketing Journalist 

Kwame Boame – How to Audit Your Social Media Efforts: 20+ Questions to Ask Yourself

Client research made easy

I’ve harped on about how important I think it is to monitor your social media presence, which it is. It is also important for you to be able to collate this information on a perspective client. There are various different websites out there that offer online monitoring, which makes it incredibly easy for you to do this yourself. Depending on what exactly you want to know about a client, will narrow down the type of site you use. There are literally hundreds of websites out there offering you free and pay for services, so here are just a few examples:

Comparative: If you are looking to compare your client to a competitor and get a general day to day view of what is being said about them, a quick, easy and free service is Google Trends. All you do is type in the name of your client a comma and then the competitor and it brings up a graph of news references over the last seven years, links to recent news stories that explain the graphs troughs and peaks, and facts about the companies presence across the world. It’s a basic tool, but it provides instant results that are clear and easy to understand and it’s perfect to use if you want to see how your client is being talked about online in comparison to a competitor.

Website Analysis: If you want an in depth analysis of your client’s website including traffic, SEO and server information then you can use sites that allow you to search for information on your clients wesbite. Woorank is a website much like this, you enter your clients name and woorank provides you with a page of information on their website. The information ranges from your woorank rating to its SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Another site similar to woorank is Website Grader, this site gives you more information on a website as well as suggestions to how you can improve the way the site runs.

Everything you need to know: If you want websites that are a one stop for information on a client, then Alexa gives you everything woorank and website grader do and more. You can create your own dashboard where you can add one or more websites to receive daily information on these websites. This is great for an agency, as you can add a new clients website to your dashboard and get the information sent straight to you. Another all round website is Quarkbase, unlike Alexa Quarkbase is more basic. You are given an overview of the website, but included in this summary is information from the current CEO to the latest comments on the company on Twitter as well as contact information and site traffic.

What is integral for you to remember when using these sites, is with the ever changing landscape of the internet as quickly as these analytic sites are created, the internet is evolving and changing. The tools out there are fantastic as a general overview when researching a new or prospective client, but there are glitches to these tools. For example woorank ranks Google the world’s largest website at only 84.5, so some of the information that these sites provide will obviously need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Festivals and Alcohol Brands: the new Sonny & Cher?

As you may have read in my previous post/plea I am currently researching and writing my dissertation “What is the affect on brand value and reputation after sponsoring a major music event” I choose the topic because I wanted to write about something I am interested in and unsurprisingly I have been sucked in by the whole thing!

Music Festivals have become BIG business, with a decline in record sales the industry has seen live music attendances rise. This has not gone unnoticed by big brands most notably the alcohol companies. In researching my dissertation I came to notice that most text available, were on how alcohol companies are taking advantage of sponsorship opportunities to target younger audiences.

Although I am not concentrating on alcohol sponsorship in my dissertation I felt the subject did need some addressing. It is no secret that alcohol companies have latched on to the music scene as a vehicle for the promotion of their brands. Carling is one of the heavyweights in this category, sponsoring or being present at 24 UK festivals and four international festivals. For festival attendees their problem is usually being restricted to Carling being the only beer available, but ‘outsiders’ concerns are that by allowing alcohol brands to sponsor popular cultural events like music festivals is the breeding ground for the UK’s binge drinking problem.

The synergy between music festivals and alcohol brands is obvious, often when you think about a festival you are immediately transported to a muddy field stood in front of a huge stage with a warm pint in your hand. For many people this epitomises their festival experience and brands such as Carling and Gaymers recognised this and developed relationships and subsequently the sponsorship of music festivals. It really is a perfect match, the Sonny and Cher of sponsorships! Although festivals are big business they are also very costly, so large sponsorship deals ensure that the festivals can keep running year on year. In turn the brands sponsoring these festivals are getting a huge amount of intense exposure to their target audience over 2-4 days. From my own research I have already found that people are able to instantly recall the major sponsor of the last festival they attended. According to IPC research 16-34yr men are so passionate about music that they view brands more favourably who sponsor live music events (64%) while women are the biggest spenders on music, “with live music and music merchandise bumping up their annual bill to ¬£803 versus men’s ¬£793.” So it really is no wonder that alcohol brands are looking to music events as a sponsorship opportunity as well as the more traditional sporting events.

There are concerns over alcohol companies sponsoring events like music festivals where a considerable amount of attendees are under the legal drinking limit. There are regulations in place into how alcohol companies are allowed to advertise, one of the regulations is that their advertising campaigns shouldn’t target under 18’s. However there is substantial evidence that the companies are actively seeking ways to target underage audiences to forge a preference to brands before they are of legal drinking age so they can create brand loyalty. One of these ways is sponsorship. Research into the affects of alcohol brands sponsoring music events by Alcohol Concern have shown that young people’s awareness of these brands is heightened after such sponsorship. This on one hand shows the alcohol companies that their sponsorship methods are working, but on the other hand has become a great concern for charities including Alcohol Concern.

Sponsorship is a great promotional tool, attaching your brand to a high profile or popular event can be hugely beneficial. Of course their are pros and cons like any other form of promotion, and these need to be weighed up before entering into it. For the alcohol brands sponsoring music festivals, they are rather cleverly getting around advertising restrictions with this sponsorship activity, however it is naive to place the blame of Britain’s binge drinking culture solely on this. It is proven that these sponsorships do work and in some cases younger audiences are recalling these brands, but studies aren’t going far enough into seeing if the brand recall is the reason behind their drinking behaviour. The blame cannot lie solely with the alcohol brands, the festivals are aware that some of their attendees are below the legal drinking limit and they are agreeing to entering into the sponsorship deals. Alcohol brands are going to continue to sponsor music festivals and I think that’s great, the more money the brands are giving the festivals the better the acts they can book and hopefully the lower the ticket prices will be, win win in my book!

HELP!

This is a shameless plea for help with my dissertation research!

I would be very grateful to anyone who could spend a few moments filling out my questionnaire on music festival sponsorships. All you need to do is click on the picture below and it will take you to the questionnaire.

Thank you!

 

What has 2011 taught PR?

I have come across lots of predictions for what 2011 would hold for Public Relations, but nothing on what the events of the year have taught the industry. The events of last year really have shaped the way a lot of businesses now conduct themselves and the PR industry can also learn from the happenings of the last 12 months.

Social Media has shown itself to be an incredibly valuable tool. In 2011 social media sites were responsible for the fall of celebrities (Charlie Sheen, Ryan Giggs etc etc), breaking the news on the death of Osama Bin laden and fueling riots across London and the rest of the UK. Of course everybody within the Public Relations industry knew how important Social Media was before all of this happened…right? Jokes as side, 2011 really has proved just how important a tool Social Media is, and if every PR agency and in house team aren’t putting together a Social Media strategy for 2012 then I would seriously question their PR ability.

Trust in the British Newspapers after the phone hacking scandal broke in early 2011 has undoubtedly dropped. When it was reported that the News of the World had hacked into the mobile phone of Milly Dowler, the public was outraged, and rightly so. An already struggling industry really shot itself in the foot and on the 10th July The News of the World published it’s last issue and in September the Leveson Inquiry was launched, looking into the practices of the British press. Newspapers are still an excellent tool for PR, but the industry now needs to readdress how they use this tool in light of the events of 2011 and the findings of the Leveson Inquiry. Theses events have also shown that the biggest empires in the world are not safe, in 2011 the Murdoch family became testament to that.

Mobile technology as with Social Media have been a huge trend for 2011. When RIM went down in October every BlackBerry users in Europe, Middle East and Africa (another lesson for RIM don’t use jargon when speaking to your public!) were left stranded when their emails and BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) stopped working. BBM was also blamed as one of the ways the London Rioters organised themselves during the riots. This shows the dependency that we now have on mobile devices. Public Relations need to make use of this dependency, mobile technology allows you to communicate instantly, constantly and directly to your audience.

These are only three points from 2011 that I think the Public Relations Industry can learn from, I’m sure that there are lots of other lessons learnt from the last 12 months. 2012 is a mixed bag in my opinion, the biggest high is sure to be the Olympics however with the growing discontent of the country (2011 saw various protest, strikes and riots) and the worsening economy the Great British public are going to hard nuts to crack. Public Relations really need to cut the crap and communicate honestly to their audiences, people can see through the smokescreens. I think Social Media is going to continue to grow in importance for the industry, hopefully it will learn to use the tool and monitor it effectively this year. Clients are going to want to know what they are paying for, so PRs need to be able to prove they are value for money.