Hosted by “Celebrity Whisperer” Rita Tateel, the PRSSA 2022 ICON session “Reaching For the Stars” focused on how public relations professionals maintain healthy relationships with high profile celebrities. This session broke down the key factors necessary to properly market celebrities and build clients’ trust.
Tateel serves as the founder and president of The Celebrity Source, an organization that has been recruiting celebrities for PR, marketing, advertising and special events for over 30 years. The Celebrity Source works with a large range of extremely famous celebrities, some of the most famous including Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Megan Fox and Matthew McConaughey.
Tateel’s presentation highlighted four key factors necessary to maintaining a healthy relationship with celebrity PR clients: the definition of a celebrity, the benefits of working with a celebrity, what to avoid when working with a celebrity, and the psychology of a celebrity.
Definition of a Celebrity
According to Tateel, a celebrity is defined as any individual who is well-known by the public involved in their field of discipline. She emphasized that their field of discipline also corresponds with their audience, strengthening a niche definition of a celebrity.
“If a person is famous within their field of discipline and their audience, they are classified as a celebrity,” Tateel said. “It is extremely important to understand who your audience is; not just any celebrity will work for every audience.”
Benefits of Working With a Celebrity
Tateel discussed the benefits of working with celebrities. She emphasized both commercial and reputational aspects along with increased preferences for specific clients.
“Studies have shown that consumers show greater recall of products that have been endorsed by celebrities,” Tateel said. “Why? Because there’s a face attached to it, not just words.”
She highlighted that celebrity endorsements increase sales by astronomical amounts and that the public is easily influenced when a product is attached to a familiar face.
What to Avoid When Working With a Celebrity
Tateel’s first piece of advice for working with a celebrity is to avoid not knowing why you want to work with that specific celebrity. She advised that if the PR practitioner has a clear measurable goal — along with specific reasoning for working with a celebrity — the partnership with the celebrity will be strengthened and the outcome will turn out better.
“Avoid recruiting a celebrity solely based on their popularity,” Tateel said. “Just because someone has 40 million followers does not mean that they will be more effective than someone who has far fewer followers.”
She also assured that asking a celebrity for more time than necessary should be avoided at all costs, because it is disrespectful to them. A celebrity’s time is precious, and should not be wasted by PR practitioners.
Among all pieces of advice on what to avoid, Tateel placed the greatest emphasis on avoiding false hope for the client.
“Don’t make any promises that you can’t keep, and keep all of the promises you make,” Tateel said. “It’s one of the reasons celebrities like to work with us… they know it’s something we stick to. If we make a promise, and something happens, and [that promise] becomes difficult to keep, we will do whatever we can to make it right.”
Psychology of a Celebrity
Tateel analyzed the psychology of celebrities and what motivates them to say “yes” to working with specific clients. Tateel highlighted that at their core, most celebrities experience insecurity.
“Think about this: if you’re a famous person, and the minute you leave your house, you’re recognized and people start talking to you. You don’t know — as this famous person — whether that person is being sincere or if they have some sort of hidden agenda with what they’re saying,” Tateel said. “You don’t know if they’re being nice because they really are being nice, or they have some sort of ulterior motive.”
She also said that one of the biggest complaints individuals may have when working with celebrities is that they are often perceived as demanding. She emphasized that understanding the root of insecurity is essential to understanding why they may come across as demanding or difficult to work with.
The psychology of celebrities coincides with getting celebrities to say yes. She advised that to simultaneously diminish this insecurity and persuade celebrities to agree to PR deals, the practitioner must go above and beyond to build trust with the celebrity.
“When you take control of a situation, you’re feeling secure, right? So, keep in mind that the takeaway from here is to help celebrities and their representatives because you’ll be dealing with them first,” Tateel said. “It’s important that they feel secure about working with you, that you pay attention to detail, that you are giving them all the elements, what they want to know, what they need to know and most importantly, what their celebrity is going to need to know.”
If you’re hoping to work with a celebrity in a future campaign, remember that celebrities are also human beings when you interact with them. Consider applying some of Tateel’s advice to create a successful relationship.
Camryn Lanning is a junior public relations major with minors in fashion media and sociology at Kent State University. Camryn uses she/her/hers pronouns and is from Pittsburgh, PA. This will be Camryn’s first year as a Kent State’s PRSSA board member, serving as the diversity, equity, and inclusion co-chair. Outside of PRSSA, Camryn is also the social director for Kent State’s Her Campus Chapter and has a radio show on Black Squirrel Radio. After graduation, Camryn hopes to pursue a career in fashion public relations.