Celebrities are typically associated with huge fan followings, and with the power of media, they have the ability to influence people and create positive change on issues that are important to them.
Just look at this summer's Ice Bucket Challenge: Celebrity involvement made it a national news story. On August 18, Facebook reported that 28 million people had joined the conversation on Facebook with 2.4 million videos relating to the challenge being shared across the social network.
Another example is the Everytown for Gun Saftey celebrity-studded PSA. It has received 7.6 million views on YouTube.
Aligning a celebrity with a campaign issue may seem like a simple decision; however, there is a lot of thought that goes into the process. Below, I’ve compiled a list of things to consider when determining whether to align your cause with a celebrity, public figure, or social influencer.
1) Is the celebrity invested in the cause?
By aligning with a cause, celebrities voluntarily becoming spokespeople for the issue. You want to make sure they know what they’re talking about in the event they get asked about the campaign in an interview. Also, when a celebrity is passionate or personally effected by an issue, they will want to be more involved in the creative process and will be continuous advocates for the brand.
Wendy Raquel Robinson, who was featured in our GED campaign, founded the Amazing Grace Conservatory, which offers educational programs for at-risk youth. Each celebrity gave a “pep talk” to young adults encouraging them to go back and get their GED. She was a natural fit for the GED campaign because she already had a clear passion for education.
In the first two years of the campaign, YourGED.org has received more than 2.6 million unique visitors, and 75% of the 39,000 callers reported learning about the number from the PSA campaign materials.
2) Does the celebrity's work align with the cause?
If you’re working with a celebrity that is an actor in a current TV show or film, it’s important to think about how that could positively or negatively affect your issue. If he plays a character in a show or movie that doesn’t align with the cause, it could be seen as negative in the press. For example, if the celebrity is playing a character that is violent and dangerous, he may not be the best person to speak about a cause relating to violence prevention.
3) What is the celebrity's reach?
It’s important to understand the demographics and psychographics of the viewers that watch their programs as well as their social media followers and make sure it’s the same target you’re trying to influence. Even though they may be incredibly passionate about a cause – if it doesn’t impact their audience, the message won’t resonate.
4) Is the celebrity social-media savvy?
One of the biggest ways to amplify any campaign is to get people to talk about it on social media. Celebrities typically have the largest followers on social media, which is why brands want them to engage with their products and talk about them online. However, not all celebrities choose to actively participate in social media. If social media is going to play a big part in your overall campaign strategy – be sure to work with a celebrity that is comfortable in the landscape. Advertising Age just released this article which ranks the celebrities that are the most engaged online and have the strongest following in social and digital media.
5) Do you know the celebrity's background?
It’s a hard cold truth that when a public figure makes a poor decision, the media will do whatever they can to write a story about it, and within minutes, it can become a trending topic on Twitter. These stories eventually fade away in time, however it takes one Google search to bring them back. Run a background check on the people you choose to associate with your cause. Some celebrities have skeletons in their closet you won’t want to associate your cause with.
6) What other charities is the celebrity involved in?
It’s not unlikely for a celebrity to support more than one cause. Some celebrities run nonprofits and foundations. Make sure you review the other issues the person currently supports to make sure they align with what you’re doing. Although the Ice Bucket Challenge proved to be extremely successful in raising awareness for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), some celebrities were conflicted on whether or not they should waste water when many people in the world don’t have access to clean water. For instance, Matt Damon, founder of Water.org decided to complete the challenge using toilet water, which apparently is still cleaner than the drinking water in some developing countries. Even though celebrity influence could drive great exposure for your issue, it’s in every nonprofit’s best interest to consider all angles and choose the right person to represent it.
Media is not only a platform for entertainment and news, but a vehicle for celebrities and social influencers to inspire positivity and teach their fans and followers about the critical issues that need their attention — and support.
Originally published Sep 22, 2014 3:00:40 AM, updated July 28 2017