I tweeted about this earlier today (http://twitter.com/ereleases) and it bears a longer message about using celebrities in your PR efforts. Over the past couple of years, the newswire has been cracking down on clients that name-drop celebrities. For instance:
The problem is that such a mention creates an implied endorsement. In many cases, the celebrity never used the product. He or she was unfortunate enough to accept a package delivered to them or received a Hollywood staple — the gift bag — with tons of free products, many of which will never be used.
Here’s an even bigger problem. Angelina Jolie is not a person, she’s a brand. Ms. Jolie might have used your product. She might have even called you up and said, “I tell all my friends what a great product you have.” She might routinely call and order mass quantities of your product to be delivered to all her friends. She personally might not have a problem with you mentioning this to your customers, posting it on your website, and including it in your press releases to the media.
Guess what? The cease-and-desist orders and lawsuits won’t be filed by Ms. Jolie. They will be filed by her attorney on behalf of Angelina Jolie Inc. (or whatever corporate entity licenses and enforces her brand).
I have personally seen takedown notices and cease-and-desist motions filed where the celebrity and vendor have a personal relationship going back years. The vendor can pick up the phone and just call the celebrity. Once the legal proceedings start, the vendor’s calls go unanswered. The celebrity has probably been warned by their attorney, agent, etc., not to encourage this behavior and to be mindful of ever complimenting a company in the future.
Yet, the gift bags and photo ops continue. In these instances, the exposure and photo sessions are meant to position a celebrity with your brand or at least make an introduction. They are meant to generate buzz, and certainly this type of grassroots marketing works to a degree. However, the moment you put words linking a celebrity to your product or quote a celebrity in a public arena out of the context of the event, you are creating a circumstance where you might get legal resistance.
In today’s tweet, New York-based The Balloon Saloon sent a huge balloon bouquet to Jennifer Lopez for her twins to enjoy while she was filming a movie in the area (http://ow.ly/hQB5). The balloons were not accepted. Perhaps, it was a safety issue. More likely, Ms. Lopez knew it would create an opportunity for The Balloon Saloon to promote the gift. In fact, the twitter site for The Balloon Saloon (http://twitter.com/balloonsaloon) loudly proclaimed: “We made it on to Perez Hilton too!” — which included a link to the celebrity blogger’s site where he ridiculed Ms. Lopez for refusing the gift.
Tread carefully when name-dropping celebrities in press releases or any PR efforts. If you can, secure permission from a celebrity to use a testimonial or their name when marketing your product or services. The most successful use of celebrities involves candid shots in entertainment magazines showing them using or wearing your product. A celebrity using a particular stroller or wearing a particular brand has become an industry standard. For better or worse, America seems to be obsessed with what celebrities use, wear, and crave.
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.