Celebrities are much more than just entertainers behind a television screen. Each famous personality has evolved into something of a brand, with an entire business built around a face recognised by hordes of dedicated fans. Under such public scrutiny, celebrities try to keep their appearances in check. While others push to become advocates for good causes, others just try to keep an eye on unexpected crises. 

Every action is, of course, a calculated PR strategy behind the scenes. It may not seem that way at first glance. But personal touches and a dash of empathy have made such actions seem a lot more relatable to the public. 

When it comes to managing public appearances for an entity, such as a boutique brand or even an MNC, it’s a little trickier to pull off such strategies. Though, it should not discount the fact that PR professionals can certainly take a leaf (or more) out of the celebrity guide book to public appearances.

Here, we explore the effectiveness of strategies used by celebrities over the years and how it can apply to public relations activities for companies. 

Stirring up excitement for a new product

In the lead up to launching a new product or service, there are many things to consider: the campaigns, the messaging and advertisements. Instead of the usual practice of campaigns, it might be worth exploring an unconventional route. 

American singer Beyonce released an album on iTunes quietly in 2013. Without the usual slew of pre-album promotions, she relied only on a single press release and a banner announcing the album launch. The move not only made her eponymous album viral on social media but also brought some stunning results: over 80,000 digital copies were sold in three hours. Instead of utilising a big 360 campaign, she understood her universal, almost cult-like appeal amongst millennials and let social media virality do her sales for her. 

As Queen Bey summed up in her press release: “I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it [before]. I’m bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.

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Be confident and take a chance

It’s certainly a move that takes a lot of guts, a wallop of courage and confidence in the potential reach of a brand. But, it adds a level of authenticity in engaging ‘directly’ with customers. Amazon’s notoriously ‘quiet’ launches of its products give insight to such engagement in a corporate setting. Over the years, the e-retailer has launched delivery service and its own beauty line without fanfare. The unusual move proved to be highly successful in standing out from a cacophony of marketing and public relations campaigns by similar companies — also boosted by the US-based company’s popularity around the world too. 

 

Taking a stand on social matters

Being ‘woke’ (millennial speak for socially aware) may or may not be directly relatable to a company’s goals, but it helps to build a more relatable image for a faceless brand and drive good support. It’s also an effective way of reaching out on CSR efforts and staying connected to society.

For celebrities, there’s no better way to reach out to fans than with showing support on current affairs. Without bordering on being too political or coming off as overly self-righteous, some personalities offer solidarity to those affected. Taiwan’s recent legalising of same-sex marriage is one not just celebrated the LGBT community, but also by big names in the local entertainment industry such as A-mei, Jolin Tsai and members of popular girl band S.H.E.  

 

Stay connected and react appropriately

It pays to stay on the ball with current affairs, even outside of the company’s scope. Such actions may even play out to a brand’s advantage when done tastefully. Take for instance: international financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley publicly backing a British woman who took to Hong Kong’s court after being denied a dependant visa when her same-sex union was not recognised. 

More than just showing support for the LGBT community, these companies have also come out to encourage diverse hiring practices in Hong Kong to attract and retain talent. In return, these companies have also stood out as some of the best companies to work for in light of their implementation of being inclusive in the workplace. 

 

Showing sincerity when bad situations surface

PR professionals always come prepared with plans to face unexpected crises and scandals that will come their way. There are some key steps to damage control: reacting fast, offer reassurance to affected parties and taking responsibility. Yet, it is often difficult to show sincerity, especially when several parties are involved in crisis management.  

Celebrities have their fair share of crises throughout their careers; many touching on their  personal lives. Each response to the media and public is highly scrutinised, and though they are often crafted with the help of managers and publicists, there’s still a personal touch with these mediations. 

When news of singer Andy Hui’s cheating scandal broke, eyes were all on Sammi Cheng, to sound out on the crisis soon. While her husband chose a press conference to formally apologise for his actions, the actress-singer took to Instagram in response to the uproar on the Internet. Cheng shared a powerful conciliatory message on social media, forgiving Hui as well as appealing to the media to stop requesting interviews from her parents.

Every situation is different. While frameworks are great to fall back on in managing crises, it’s important to remain adaptable. Instead of adopting the usual route, Cheng sought a personal approach to the matter which led to a huge show of support and empathy from fans.  

 

Take apologies personally

Fashion powerhouse Dolce & Gabbana’s founder, Stefano Gabbana, allegedly made offensive remarks about China after being accused of putting out advertisements with racist undertones. The brand immediately took to Instagram, apologising for the ‘distress caused’ and claiming that personal accounts were hacked. 

Despite the immediate response, it backfired on Dolce & Gabbana as more people took to social media to express their anger at the situation. Eventually, with mounting social media pressure and boycotting of stores, both founders finally came up with an apology on camera. Though critics maintain that it still did not address the issue properly, it had managed to calm down the flames a little. 

 

Staying ‘human’

Including a human touch to a corporate face is almost a given in this day and age. However, it pays to ensure that this human touch is relatable, sincere, and likeable. You don’t just want your brand’s public face to be just like a person, but a person that people like.

In a nutshell, the manner in which selected celebrities present themselves contains some potential best practices for brands to emulate and build upon as well, from marketing new products and initiatives to tackling a crisis effectively.