This post originally appeared in the Council of Public Relations Firms’ blog, the Firm Voice

by Matt Shaw

With the red carpets for this year’s Academy Awards unrolling as we speak, we were wondering: Is the A-list still as valuable as it once was to a brand in our age of social media? Are brands missing out if they’re not visible at an event like the Academy Awards? And how do we measure celebrity in a media landscape dominated by Facebook and Twitter”?

Traditional celebrity has certainly taken some hits as of late. Observers havequestioned whethercelebrity tweets—which cost brands as much as $8,000 each—are really worth the money. As a recent report in USA Todaynoted, ads at this year’s Superbowl were chock full of celebrities, at a high cost to brands, even though ads with celebrities in general prove 3% less effective than ads without them—an effect that has been multiplied in recent super bowl advertising. And some in the non-profit world have argued that it’s engagement rather than celebrity that really moves consumers to act.

Influencers such as bloggers and YouTube personalities are now stepping in to challenge celebrities as effective brand-builders. TJMaxx recently featured a fashion blogger in its television advertising, buying into a broader trend that has seen the rise of agents selling the services of bloggers. As Stephanie Smirnov, President and Chief Creative Officer, DeVries Public Relations, notes, “Social media has democratized influence and we now have a greatly expanded pool of talent to draw from when identifying brand ambassadors and spokespeople … Research already tells us consumers are influenced as much and sometimes more by bloggers than celebrities when making purchases. That’s a seismic shift from where we were two or three years ago.”

Smirnov observes that brands are routinely asking PR teams to go beyond traditional influencers. “A celebrity spokesperson might get you booked on the “Today” show, but the right mix of celebrity plus social media influencers will accelerate consumer uptake and sharing of your message or call-to-action. The ideal PR program leverages both.” The very definition of “A List” might be changing in the eyes of marketers. “For a lot of our clients, a red carpet superstar or Oscar winner would be at the top of the celebrity wish list; now, it’s as likely to be a reality TV star with a devoted social media following.”

As others argue, social media has made traditional celebrities more valuable, not less, a contention that might explain the ever more astronomical fees A-listers claim. Suzanne Haber, Chief of Media Innovations at Marina Maher Communications, holds that social media has increased the reach of celebrities, making them more powerful as brandbuilders. “The choice of a celebrity now goes well beyond their traditional assets. We carefully analyze their social media graph. We’re not just looking at how extensive their graph is, but also whether their fans are targets for the brand. We at MMC typically do not recommend a celebrity or brand ambassador unless they have a strong online presence to extend the reach and frequency of our messages.”

According to both Haber and Smirnov, firms today must change the metrics they use in evaluating celebrities to account for social media. In selecting celebrities for campaigns, Marina Maher uses a proprietary tool measuring both online and offline relevance to the brand, to popular culture, and to the brand’s target audience, as well as the celebrity’s social media footprint. Smirnov relates that in addition to older metrics like Q scores, she regards Klout scores as equally if not more important. “A celebrity with 500,000 actively engaged social media fans is probably more valuable to us than one with five million passive followers.”

If firms have altered the way they use and evaluate celebrities, emerging platforms and practices are pushing the envelope even further, with untold consequences. Lady Gaga, who boasts over 18 million Twitter followers, has announced her plans to start a new social networkingwebsite for celebrities, while another social platform called WhoSay will allow celebrities to control their own content with fans. Celebrities and marketers are also continuing to discover the implications of gaffes and celebrity-brand mismatches in an age of immediate and constant communications. With all this activity swirling around us, it’s incumbent on firms to monitor developments closely and constantly re-evaluate and innovate their approach to celebrities.

The orginal post can be found


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