Landing an interview with a celebrity can project your podcast, magazine or blog into new heights. Suddenly, you can command higher rates for ad space and you won’t have trouble filling those slots.
Celebrities fill the proverbial “seats,” which means you’ll get more subscribers and views.
The same holds true for product endorsements. If a celeb vouches for your product, expect that it’s going to see an increase in sales.
People will always be a little celeb-obsessed, and that’s great news for anyone who happens to be selling anyone – if they can get in touch with said celebrity.
We recently hopped on the phone for an interview with Hunter Frederick, a celebrity publicist and crisis manager whose clients include Luann de Lesseps from Real Housewives of New York, Lindsay Lohan, and Amanda Bynes. In the past, Hunter has also had among his clients celebrities such as Lamar Odom, Chris Pratt, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Hunter shared with me some key insights and best practices for how media brands can utilize celebrity publicists for setting up an interview, and how brands can use publicists to introduce their product or brand to celebrities in hopes of getting a major influencer to offer you their support.
What Exactly Does a Publicist Do?
A celebrity publicist acts as the intermediary between the celebrity and entities who want to contact them.
One of the main job responsibilities for a celebrity publicist is to generate positive media exposure while simultaneously maintaining a positive public reputation. Furthermore, a good celebrity publicist will interact with the media and other people and entities who want to get in contact with their clients.
A publicist is usually specified to one person usually in the entertainment industry. And that person is in charge of their client’s overall public image. So, anything that you read about someone or watch an interview, all that is orchestrated and done by the publicist. Then the publicist is kind of in charge of how the world preserves a certain person.
Setting Up Interviews with A Celebrity
As any Hollywood tabloid will let you know, there is certainly no shortage of crises and gossip affecting entertainment stars and celebrities. As a celebrity publicist and crisis manager, Hunter obviously spends a lot of time helping his clients get through any periods of gossip or crisis that could negatively affect their image.
While publicists in the past used to focus on simply trying to cover up Hollywood scandals that affected their clients, things are changing in today´s world.
I think you used to see a lot of covering up with scandals in general in Hollywood. We’re now seeing that that doesn’t work…so, the PR in Hollywood has changed drastically because we’re now realizing that being honest, being transparent is not a bad thing. And so now the new generation of publicists…we’re actually encouraging our clients to step into the light, be more transparent, be honest, don’t hide from things.
When he is not engaged in managing the crises and scandals of his clients, Hunter also spends a fair amount of time interacting with media brands that are trying to reach out to his clients. From interviews to podcasts, Hunter receives dozens of contacts every week. So how does he determine which one is a good fit for his clients?
When we get an email from a brand that wants to partner with one of our clients, even based on how we get the information kind of depends on whether or not they’re a good match for our client. Really what’s important are the numbers, how many people listen or read per month, things like that.
While the number of viewers or listeners that a media brand can offer is certainly important, the quality of production is also a major concern.
“It’s also based on… the level of professionalism… If I’ve got someone that runs a podcast. They want to interview a client and they may not have a ton of listeners, but the production value of the podcast is high caliber. You know, I’m much more willing to give it a shot than… a podcast that maybe had a ton of listeners, but sounds like it’s been recorded out of a can.
The Logistics of Setting Up An Interview
Just because you have a high quality podcast or YouTube channel that generates a fair amount of viewers or listeners, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are guaranteed to get an exclusive interview with a celebrity. Hunter also explains that timing is everything if you want to successfully engage with a publicist for a celebrity you are trying to engage.
If you’re targeting a specific client, a specific celebrity, you should kind of know what’s happening in that world based on what the publicist’s is putting out. So, if they’re doing interviews, try and jump in on that. If you see that they’re being awfully quiet, still reach out to kind of gauge interest, but know that chances are that interview’s not going to happen.
Along with the right timing, the format for interacting with celebrities is also an important consideration that is often overlooked. While in person interviews are usually the best option, distance often makes that impossible and phone interviews are the next best option.
Usually how those work is we do a three way call or conference call. So, I’ll call my client and then I’ll put them on hold and then call the radio station, we’ll just do a three way call. And then I usually mute my phone line and I’m kind of taking notes in the background.
Contacting a Celebrity Publicist
Hunter also provided us with the best ways to get in touch, and format for contacting publicists through email.
As much information as you can lay out in one email is great for us because then we can just take that information directly to our client. A lot of what a publicist does is they’re just a gate keeper. So, we take information, we digest it, we present it to our clients and then hopefully if our client has questions, we can then answer those.
Some people prefer to pick up the phone rather than send an email, but that may not always be the best strategy. There are reasons why publicists prefer not to answer your calls.
If you call, I wouldn’t expect an answer. I think email definitley is preferable. Publicists are on the phone constantly anyway, between talking to clients and talking with journalists. I get phone fatigued pretty easily, so for me, it’s just better to have an email that I can respond to when I can. And also, especially when you’re dealing with any kind of money, it’s nice to have those details on email so that you can go back and refer to them later.
What to Avoid When Contacting Celebrity Publicists
Of course, there are also some rules and guidelines that all media brands and marketers should abide if they want to successfully engage with a celebrity publicist. That generic email that send out on a daily basis is probably driving a celebrity publicist crazy and putting you on their black list.
Politeness still goes a long way…I mean, it’s not uncommon for me to have 500 emails a day…so I do have to prioritize and figure out: “okay, what’s pressing for what client?” Sometimes the response is not always able to happen and I try and respond to every email and inquiry to at least say, “Hey, thanks for reaching out, but this isn’t going work out right now.
While being enthusiastic, persistent, and aggressive can be a good quality for successful media brands and marketers, there is a certainly a line that should not be crossed.
By far my biggest pet peeve is demanding of an interview. Interviews are not paid…and depending on the season we’re in, I may not need that press for the client. So, really, we would just be doing it as a favor to the outlet to keep up a good relationship. So, I say my number one pet peeve is people just demanding things.
The big question, of course, is how often media brands and marketers can reach out to a celebrity publicist without crossing the line of annoyance.
Reach out maybe once a week for three weeks and then let it go. Any more than that would probably be a nuisance and then there’s a good chance that after three tries there’s a reason why you’re not getting a response. Either it’s not a good time or the outlet’s not the right fit.
Sending Products and Gifts to Celebrities
For media brands and marketers that have identified a specific celebrity that they would like to engage with to create a partnership, getting your product in front of the eyes of that celebrity is an important step. While you could try to send your chosen celebrity a package of gifts unannounced, finding their address can be close to impossible. Going through the celebrity publicist is almost always the wiser choice.
If I know it’s something that we can use and that our client would enjoy, I’ll give them our office address and then we will forward it to our client… I would always recommend reaching out first regardless, so there’s no sense in wasting money on postage and products when you don’t even know if you’re going to get a response.
Of course, getting your product in front of the celebrity is only half the battle. If you are expecting them to give you a mention on social media, it is important to express that clearly.
You didn’t say, “Hey…we want to send a product. Can they then post us on social media?” If you want to send a product for free, great! But then don’t get upset when two months later, you’ve not seen anything on social media, because you didn’t ask for it.
Clearly defining your strategy for sending along products is important to address early on in your marketing strategy. For companies and media brands that are confident in their product, a simple gift of that product might make enough of an impression on the celebrity to get a spontaneous and unstructured shout out on social media. For sponsored posts, however, clear communication with the celebrity publicist is a must.
When it’s a paid sponsorship, then as a publicist, we do like to see the numbers, we do want to see demographic information and that kind of thing. But for someone just wanting to send something out just for fun, the shorter the better and definitely a link to the website is sufficient.
Some Last Words of Advice
Getting a celebrity endorsement for your media brand or product is a great way to get a business to grow and expand its reach. Learning the best strategies to approach celebrities through their publicists is essential if you are going to be successful. As Hunter has spelled out above, being direct and concise are two attributes that should guide your overall strategy.
Rather than us as the publicist trying to figure out how your brand works, we really appreciate (when a media brands says) “Hey, this is exactly the copy we want to see on the Instagram post.” That makes our job ten times easier.
If you are having trouble getting your product in front of your chosen celebrity, another strategy would be to organize an event and specifically invite that celebrity.
Any public appearance, paid or not paid, is handled by the publicist. So, even if it’s not like a red carpet, it’s just an invite, it’s a charity event, that all goes to the publicist.
Alternatively, charity events are another way to possibly create an occasion to interact with a celebrity.
When we go in and start working with a client, we determine…their charitable interests so we know what charities are a good fit.
Even for charitable activities, however, being upfront and honest about your expectations is essential.
We just want to know up front what it is you’re expecting of our client, so the time commitment, if they want products, what that looks like, everything up front is just really helpful for us…That way we don’t waste anybody’s time.