Engaging a celebrity to help promote your cause can be an effective way to gain attention but it’s easier said than done. For the past few months, I’ve been trying to persuade several high profile Canadian men to endorse a public awareness campaign for a nonprofit client. This is the first time I’ve attempted to do something like this and I have to say, it’s not easy going. Here’s an outline of my approach as well as some observations about the experience.
- Don’t aim too high – If you’re not a high profile nonprofit, the chances of enticing an A-list celebrity to your campaign at the start is probably pretty low. I started off aiming for the sky and the return emails and phone calls numbered zero. I adjusted my approach. If I could get some prominent but less well-known celebs on board, that would give the campaign added credibility and perhaps the A-listers would then be willing to join. This seems to be working. The more celebrities that sign on, the easier is seems to be to get more.
- Tailor your ask – Research the celebrity you are planning to approach. Find out about his/her background, childhood and what charities he/she presently supports. Use this information to tailor your approach. Is your cause related to one the person already supports? Is there something in this celebrity’s personal history that you can relate to the cause? Help the person to see the connection with your organization. Research can also reveal circumstances in the individual’s life that perhaps don’t make him/her the best choice for your cause. Research is important!
- Don’t ask too much – It would be great to have a celebrity become a major campaign spokesperson. It would be fabulous if they agreed to make a video, mention your campaign on the Web, hold a fundraising concert or attend a media launch. Again, if your organization is in the building stage, asking for a high commitment right at the start doesn’t seem the best way to go. Start with something easy—something that doesn’t take a great deal of time. Once the celebrity makes that commitment, perhaps there will be an opportunity to build further engagement.
- Don’t be a stalker – Celebrities are understandably protective of their privacy. They have many organizations and fans seeking their attention. While it’s important to be persistent with agents and other gate keepers, I’ve tried not be a pest. I hope that I’ve come across as respectful of the time and effort agents and publicists have put towards getting my message to the celebrities.
I have been successful at getting a number of individuals on board with my client’s campaign but there are a number of celebrities on my dream list that remain elusive. I am continuing to plug away.
The biggest hurdle I had to face was actually finding contact information for agents and publicists. Fortunately, I located a friend-of-a-friend who had an IMBD Pro account and was able to look up the agents of the people on my dream list. Subscribing to the service would have been another option. Sometimes you can find information on the Internet but that can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
It’s amazing to me how different the responses have been from agent to agent. A few get back to me promptly after an email, phone call or letter. Their clients have either come on board quickly or they’ve communicated that they are unable to support the cause at this time. Many, many emails and phone calls go unanswered. This really burns me because I have to keep calling and emailing until I’m sure there isn’t a possibility of support. It makes me feel like a stalker and it’s a major drain on time. Just call or email me back and tell me your client isn’t interested. I promise that I will then go away.
It’s a big thrill to than hear that a celebrity endorsement has come through. There’s no question that having someone well known endorse your cause can be a major boost to your nonprofit’s efforts, not to mention the morale of its staff. Just be prepared to spend a great deal of time doing research, following up leads and making phone calls. Give yourself more time than you ever thought you’d need.
How about you? Have you been successful at getting endorsements from high-profile community members. Share your tips and tricks here.