Lights, Camera, Action: Five Tips for Using a Celebrity Spokesperson

By Dante DelVecchio, Senior Account Supervisor

We’ve all been there – a brainstorming session for a new project kicks off, and the first thing the client asks about is, “what about getting someone famous to be the face for this campaign?”

And while the idea might be rooted in visions of rooftop parties with Hollywood elite, there is a lot of value in enlisting a celebrity spokesperson to draw attention to a new PR campaign – or one that has started to stagnate.  A high-profile name can be an instant media draw, an engaging megaphone to your audience, and a credible testimony for your cause.

But as TMZ is often quick to point out, not all celebrities are created equal.  It doesn’t take many missteps to suddenly end up with a Paula Dean or Kim Kardashian in your hands.  A successful celebrity PR campaign is more than just slapping a spokesperson in front of a satellite media tour.  There’s a lot of work that is needed – both at the front end and throughout the campaign itself.

Here are five ways to get the most out of engaging a celebrity spokesperson:

1.) Pick the Right Person:  While Brad Pitt or Beyoncé might get every media outlet’s attention, most budgets don’t necessarily allow for that level of star power.  But truly, the caliber of the celebrity isn’t the most important aspect; it’s important to find a spokesperson who is right for your program.  Very often for a PR program, that means identifying someone with an authentic connection to the cause or product.  And if you can identify someone who has their own newsworthy events happening at the time of your launch – be it a new show, movie, album, or book coming out – it will only make your pitch to national media outlets that much stronger.

2.) Have a Clear Plan: You cannot just take an existing program, put a famous name and face on the materials, and expect the media to beat down your door.  You have to ensure that your spokesperson and program work hand-in-hand, with the components of the program seamlessly tied into the rationale for the celebrity’s involvement.  It’s also paramount to have very clearly spelled-out responsibilities and expectations for your spokesperson.  In Hollywood, schedules change quickly and a celebrity’s attention can be diverted easily; having very clear rules of engagement minimizes any additional conflicts or A-list temper tantrums that could arise.

3.) Find an Agent:  A good celebrity agent is worth more than the fees you’ll be paying the celebrity themselves.  They not only assist with the identification and vetting of a celebrity, but they also serve to ensure the spokesperson is adhering to everything that has been agreed to, no matter what last-minute requests or riders appear (green M&Ms and all).  They’re the “bad cops” that you’ll rely on at every step of the way, and the ones who can remind a diva where the paycheck comes from at the end of the day.

4.) Set Expectations:  When the bill for a celebrity spokesperson shows up, clients will immediately expect the world for the amount of zeroes they’re seeing.  And rightly so – it’s a big expense that can yield big results.  But it’s also not an immediate path to every major television show appearance out there.  Some big media outlets are increasingly cautious of paid celebrity spokespeople, and even if an interview is booked, they might not allow the individual to talk about their work with your program.  So it is important to ensure the client understands what is feasible and what challenges might arise throughout the pitch process.

5.) Engage the Audience: A good celebrity and strong media draw is good, but a spokesperson who connects with the target audience you’re attempting to reach is even better.  That can be everything from in-person events to get the community excited, or even having a strong social media component to support the campaign and get people talking online.

What other tips do you have for successfully incorporating a celebrity spokesperson into your PR campaign?

Happy ‘Back to the Future’ Day!

Today, the 21 October 2015, is the day on which Marty McFly and Doc Brown crash into the future as part of the time-travelling film trilogy.

Filmed in November 1989, Back to the Future Part II has become famous in future years for its attempt to prophesise what the technologically advanced world of 2015 would be like. Despite the fact that we haven’t quite cracked hoverboards just yet (although we are getting close) the prophecy of an increasingly digital future was not far off.

One area that has seen significant changes since 1989 is healthcare – but what health and medical breakthroughs have taken place in recent years that would really amaze Marty and Doc? We’ve put together our list:

Connected Health

1989 was the year that the first ever World Wide Web server and browser were developed. Today, smart devices and apps, which still work on the fundamental principles of web servers, are becoming increasingly important in the connected health landscape. In our pockets (or increasingly, on our wrists) is a personal trainer, diabetes expert, dermatologist and almost anything else we can imagine in the health and fitness world. These revolutions in healthcare have meant a shift from a static physician-focused setting to a data-driven and proactive world where the patient is empowered and driving continual evolution.

Dr Google will see you now

One in 20 Google internet searches is health-related, allowing users to access an unfathomable amount of health and medical information. Google was the leading source for health information in 2010 (78%), whilst other more traditional sources like FASS (the Medicines Compendium for Healthcare Professionals in English) represented the remaining 22%. This shows that medical data is becoming accessible to everyone, not just healthcare professionals.

The web has allowed patients to become more knowledgeable about their conditions, giving them confidence through well-informed advice and guidance generated from worldwide sources. This includes everything from care guides, sponsored content, medical research, charities and patient awareness campaigns.

Patient engagement

Patient advocacy and support groups on social media mean that patients no longer need to feel alone, as they can now connect with people from around the world who are experiencing the same illnesses and symptoms as them, regardless of how rare their disease may be.  Similarly, medical establishments can now engage with their patents rather than be gatekeepers of information and advice. In a world which is becoming increasingly more digital and screen-focused rather than face-focused, examples such as this show the power that digital can have in humanising medical and health experiences.

Robotic healthcare and artificial intelligence

With the world’s first printed pill already developed and Google’s partnership with Johnson & Johnson to create artificial intelligence surgical robots, will we witness an age where the patient’s experience from primary, secondary and tertiary care is wholly artificial? In today’s world, advances in technology have paved the way for the possibility of ambulance journeys to the hospital by self-driven cars, and not long from now we may see ‘robot carers’ fill the gap in the current shortage of nurses. Although exciting, it will be increasingly important to ensure that human compassion, patience and understanding is never lost within the healthcare and medical field.

The most exciting thing about digital health and connected health is that we are still in the early stages of its development. If this was the industrial revolution, then we would be at the stage when Stephenson’s Rocket was steaming its way from Liverpool to Manchester. In 2041, the same gap from Back to the Future Part II to today, ‘digital health’ will simply be ‘health’.

The Power of Imagery in Securing Broadcast Media Coverage

By Kimberly Davidow, Senior Media Relations Specialist

The word “imagery” holds an intrinsic power in the English language. According to Merriam-Webster, imagery is the “language that causes people to imagine pictures in their mind.” Imagery can transcend the imagination of audiences on a massive scale, through visual pictures or videos to the usage of descriptive language found in novels and biographies and even works of art. Imagery sets the tone of human emotion, too.

In healthcare PR, imagery holds great significance to the overall success of pitching client content to the media. If your words fall flat in your pitch, so will reporters’ interest. So, how do you create gritty newsworthy content from materials that are sometimes bland or complicated in nature? Visualize the story that you would want to read. Let me explain…

As a former broadcast journalist, I’ve received hundreds of pitches from PR agencies over the years. The emails flooding my inbox were essentially novels of content filled with meaningless footnotes and disclaimers. Unfortunately for those senders, the content provided in most pitches missed the mark – by a long shot. I wasn’t convinced that what those agencies shared was anything truly appealing or different than the content that’s been covered countless times by other media outlets. As a journalist, it was my responsibility to report newsworthy information that would impact my audiences in some capacity – either on a personal or professional level.

The moral of this story is that those pitches lacked imagery. Their content didn’t express why the information they were providing was not only important, but would resonate with audiences. To provide informative materials is journalists’ main goal. From my experience as a journalist to my role now in the PR world, I’ve found that the ideal equation of creating a successful pitch is as follows: Imagery + Authenticity = Powerful Storytelling.

When approaching broadcast media, here’s the rule of thumb: journalists won’t take time out of their hectic deadline-driven schedules to review pitches unless they can visualize the potential story. The media is constantly searching for visually exciting materials to bring to the forefront. For example, imagery I enjoyed receiving as a broadcast journalist included:

  • B-roll video that aligns with your pitch
  • Spokesperson interview opportunities
  • Photographs and infographics

For my fellow PR professionals, as you develop your next pitch, say to yourself “How can I take this content a step further? Can I tell a powerful story with the materials that I have before me?”

Here are my top four tips for approaching and securing interest from broadcast media:

  1. Keep your message simple and your facts short, sweet and to-the-point
  2. Offer interview opportunities
  3. Provide exclusivity to unique embargo materials
  4. Build positive relationships. Even if journalists pass on your content, acknowledge their rejection in a kindly fashion. They’ll remember and appreciate your professional response, especially if you intend on pitching other content to them in the future.

Lastly, here is a look into my former role as a broadcast journalist with WFMZ-TV:

PharmaVoice 100

On September 17th, members of the Tonic Philadelphia team traveled to New York City to celebrate the PharmaVoice 100 awards. Maryellen Royle, president, North America at Tonic Life Communications, was named to PharmaVoice’s 100 Commanders and Chiefs within the space. A feature of Maryellen in the magazine focuses on her energetic, creative and loyal personality, leading to success at Tonic both for clients and among teams. Attendees documented the night on social media, sharing photos and congratulating winners using the hashtag #PharmaVoice100.

The awards are a means to celebrate the men and women throughout the life sciences industry who provide inspiration to their peers, colleagues, and companies through their innovative and motivational approaches to addressing the industry’s myriad challenges. We couldn’t think of someone more deserving of this recognition than Maryellen.

Please find a link to the full article here and see more of what the team is doing on Tonic’s website: www.toniclc.com.

4 Ways to Make the Most Out of a Medical Meeting

By Laure’n Gleason, Senior Account Executive

Over the years working in healthcare communications, I have learned that it takes a lot of preparation and focus to make the most out of a medical meeting. Medical conferences are as valuable as you make them. They provide excellent opportunities to converse with patients and collaborate with experts. The difference between simply attending a meeting and maximizing its worth lies in your approach.

Here are just a few tips for making the most out of your next medical meeting:

Preparation: It’s important to know in advance what you hope to get out of the meeting. Why do you want to meet certain people? Do you see possibilities for collaboration? With limited time, having specific reasons and goals in mind can yield effective results. If you are planning a private event, reach out to your contacts well in advance to secure their attendance and lock down logistics.

Networking: You never know who you’ll meet at these meetings, which is why it’s important that you’re prepared with a firm handshake and a little personality! Begin by bringing plenty of business cards to share. Exchanging tangible contact information is still one of the most effective ways of being remembered after meeting someone new. Take the lead by introducing yourself with a smile, and know what you want and have a plan for getting it. Promote interesting conversations by asking great questions and actively listening to what others have to share. After the conference, make sure to follow up via email. LinkedIn is also an easy way to connect after meeting someone.

Social Media Engagement: The growing patient participation at these meetings has made way for a strong social media presence, and the addition of more people into this online network helps get important information to the patients and families we work with every day. Twitter can be a great way to capture the small nuggets of information you and others gather while at a conference. After the conference, look back through your stream of posts for a journal of what you found inspiring.  And as a bonus, you can see what other people tweeted, which may further reinforce what is really important.

Post-Conference Learning: Most of us have been there: attended an exhilarating conference, met fascinating people and left armed with new knowledge—only to get pulled quickly back into our day-to-day, to the point that we don’t follow up or follow through. It’s important to share your experience and any new knowledge with colleagues, clients and patients. A great way to get a good sense of patients’ reactions is by reviewing blogs written about their experience. This is especially important if you held a private event. Personal accounts can help reinforce what worked and what didn’t so you can build upon those experiences for the following year.

What are some of your tips for making the most of out of a medial meeting? Comment below!