PR’s Top Pros Talk…Integrating Celebrities & Influencers into Brand Campaigns
Ali Taekman, Partner, BPCM
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About the Host:
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: ALI TAEKMAN
DOUG: Celebrities, influencers, how brands can work with them and how can CEOs themselves become celebrities? And how can celebrities become CEOs? That’s what we’re going to be talking about with Ali. Really excited to have this conversation. Let’s start. So what is this celebrity?
ALI: I think, you know, the way that we define celebrity, at least at BPCM is somebody who it’s a little bit more traditional. So you’re thinking of these people in terms of someone who’s kind of, you know, maybe not well known for the field that they’re in, I should say. So whether you’re an actor, you’re a musician, you’re a chef, you’re an artist, you’ve sort of risen to the top. You’ve done enough work that people recognize you from the work that you do. And so, you know, a lot of these people have gained sort of like household name status just because of the you know, of their success in their given field. That’s how we define sort of a traditional celebrity.
DOUG: Great. And for an influencer that’s different.
ALI: An influencer is different. I think an influencer, is someone who might not have that same kind of global reach or even national reach. They certainly have a big following. But I think that their following is a little bit more engaged. And because they’re not necessarily, you know, acting or doing whatever that, you know, they have a little bit more of a niche, I should say, following because of whatever it is that they have gained notoriety for. So whether it’s their style, whether it’s, you know, their cooking class at home that they do, whether it’s, you know, their comedy, they just they’re not necessarily famous in the same way as an actor or a musician. But they do have people who look to them to truly look to them for inspiration and information.
DOUG: Yeah. And celebrities and influencers, you like to talk about them no longer just being the face that’s thrown up. They’re much more integrated, which makes campaigns more authentic. How can a brand go about working with them to get some of the best results, what are some of the top line tips you have?
ALI: Well, I think, you know, listen, we just define them as two sort of separate things. And so I don’t think that any brand, if you want to be effective, can only go one way, you know, one path. I think with anything, anytime you’re talking about, you know, marketing, PR, anything you’re trying to reach, you know, your consumer the way you want to speak to them. It’s a multi kind of, you know, path that you’re going to take. So really what we recommended and the lines between celebrities and influencers are blurring, you know, more and more every single day. Celebrities want to be more like influencers. Influencers want to be celebrities. And so we’re seeing this sort of crossover. But to answer the question, I think that you would brands who do it well will use both. And because you’re going to get something different from both of those kind of subsets, you know, a celebrity, like I said, they’ve got the more global reach. They can put a halo effect on a brand when they’re out there talking or showing up for a brand. They get attention, but that doesn’t always necessarily, I’d say, translate into direct sales. Whereas when you use an influencer and again, it’s because they’ve got that more engaged following, those people are following them for a very specific reason. That then leads to a little bit more potential sales or you just see a little bit more, you know, a direct impact. But that’s why both are important, because you get you know, you get sort of the big name to pull it in. And then you’ve got the you know, the more micro people in there kind of doing the work, if you will.
DOUG: Yeah. It sounds like the influencers might have more sort of subject matter credibility with their audience. Now, interesting, you talked earlier than we can jump into another group that wants to become celebrities and influencers frequently are CEOs. You think of the celebrity CEO and how important that can be for a brand, any sort of advice. If a company owner wants to become that celebrity CEO, what should they be thinking about?
ALI: Well, I’d actually advise for them not to have that goal. You know, I think that any brand, whether it is celebrity driven or lead or it’s a, you know, your everyday CEO. I think you can’t pin an entire brand on one person. And I think at the end of the day, what we always say is, you know, the brand ambassadors, the celebrities, the influencers, whoever it may be, brings people into, you know, into your kind of funnel, if you will. But then the product has to do its job. And so I think a smart and clever CEO is someone who can certainly speak passionately about their brand, who knows who the right partners are to bring in, and also sort of become like evangelists for that brand. But I’d say to put yourself above the brand itself and try and, you know, I never think the idea of just like I want to be a celebrity, so how do I achieve that is a good way to go about it. But I do think. But do think there are there are certainly CEOs out there who have gained that that recognition. But I want to say it’s more so because of the work that they’ve done, the partnerships they’ve done. I’m you know, there’s people out there, you know, you could look at brands like Gucci and you can look at brands like, you know, what Tiffany’s just did right. With Jay-Z and Beyonce. I mean, that that was a brilliant, brilliant marketing move on their part. And I think, you know, their CEO got a lot of recognition for that. And I think it was due because I thought it was a very clever way to engage a new audience for Tiffany.
DOUG: So what I’m what I’m hearing then is that if you want to be a celebrity, starting a multi-billion dollar business might not be the clear path for you to get there. You might have to go about it in a different way. So, you know, with brands and also their leaders, because we’re seeing a lot more of them wanting to be on TV, wanting to out, especially during the Covid environment, when news became more important. And now everything seems to be so much more important. We saw the crises with fires, floods, hurricanes that are just unbelievable and awful. Sustainability is a key part of what you do and how you work with brand celebrities and influencers. Can you talk about how do you make that seem real? Not like an Astroturf kind of move.
ALI: It’s been an interesting journey for us. We started in really our work in sustainability about seven years ago. We got into it because we started working with a celebrity pro surfer, Kelly Slater, who was launching a new menswear brand. It was all rooted in sustainability, and that felt a little bit new and out of the box at the time. And again, this was, you know, seven years ago. And that opened our eyes to a way that business could be done if you’re willing to do the hard work and really stick to your values. And so I think that that just really created a shift in us. What, you know, sustainability is such a broad term. It’s a bit of a catch all. It doesn’t it’s like it means everything. It means nothing. But I do think when you hear the word, you do have an understanding. It’s a frame of reference for what you’re about to speak about. And what we like to speak about is impact, because that’s more measurable. You know, you could really look at something and say, OK, does this action, does this production, does this garment we’re making. Does this where does it impact the earth? Where does it impact the people who are producing it? Is it positive or negative? So we like to think of things in terms of impact. But I think the bigger, you know, message and you just said it yourself, there’s so much sort of like gloom and doom and the sky is falling. And there’s a lot of negativity associated, I think, with the word sustainability, with just sort of like a barrier point, I think is why people have this like hesitancy to talk about it or to enter into this. You know, this work is because it all feels so like, oh, like we’re doomed anyway, you know, and so we’re really on the path of rather than being like, don’t do this and don’t do that, although there’s a lot of things that we shouldn’t be doing. It’s much more about reimagining the future in a way of like, what can we be doing? And it’s sort of that, you know, Mr. Rogers, you know, like look for the helpers, like, you know, really looking for the people and the companies and the individuals and the brands who are looking for solutions. And they’re out there. And that’s what’s super exciting for us. So we, I think, are able to hopefully, you know, channel that excitement and the information that we’re out there gathering to bring to brands, to influencers, you know, because, you know, we need the big brands to adopt this. I mean, this is the only way that real change is going to happen, like these big, massive corporations are going to have to do this. But individuals want to feel like they’re doing their part. So we’re seeing a ton of influencers, whether it be, you know, traditional celebrities or more of these micro who are putting this at the forefront of their messaging and really making sure that they’re only aligning with brands that, you know, share values, their values, and making sure that they’re being responsible with what they’re, you know, because at the end of the day, any of these sort of advertising. PR marketing exercises. It’s to sell product. So you need to be, you know, as a ambassador in any way or talent, whatever that looks like. I think you need to and I think the talent these days are being a lot more mindful and careful of where they put their name in there. And they’re sort of power.
DOUG: Yeah, the cost can be so high of making a mistake. But I really want to thank you for shining some bright light and positivity and hopefully having some impact on the folks who watch this video conversation. Thanks so much for joining us.
ALI: Thank you. Appreciate it.