If a celebrity spokesperson has been booked for your product launch or PR program, he will most likely need message training. And whether you, or an external coach, is conducting the training, it’s important to take charge and set ground rules. Specifically, the coach needs to be the “director” to get the necessary buy-in from the celebrity for the best results.
Be a Respectful Teacher
Just because they’re famous movie stars or athletes doesn’t mean they are comfortable with themselves.
We recently coached an up and coming actor who was being groomed for success by the studio. This actor absolutely refused to look at himself and critique his training videos. Even though millions of people saw him on the big screen, he couldn’t look at himself unless he was playing a part.
It was simply too painful for him to see himself as others do. The training ended up being successful in spite of his not wanting to face himself. Lesson learned here is to be a compassionate teacher and don’t assume that just because celebrities are in the public eye they’re comfortable with who they are.
In order to be effective in preparing a spokesperson for a media interview or an event, you shouldn’t walk on eggs around her. Before meeting the celebrity, do your research on Google and YouTube. Be sure to make contact with her agent.
The agent has worked with the celebrity and knows the sensitivities in bringing out her client’s best performance. Reassure the agent that you will do everything in your power to help the celebrity understand the client’s expectations to help her very important client deliver her talking points.
Peel Back the Onion
Even though someone may be an Oscar-winning actor today, everyone has to start with a first big network interview. Very often the actor is terrified and doesn’t know the ground rules for meeting the media. A highly regarded movie star had no idea how to project presence on camera for an interview. She didn’t know how to sit, where to look or what to wear. She had planned to dress as if she was walking the red carpet! Surprising, perhaps, but a true story. She was grateful to learn interview ground rules.
Because of all the attention they receive, celebrities often try to hide who they really are. It’s not an accident that so many of them wear dark glasses 24/7. It’s a way of maintaining some privacy, and maybe their sanity.
But if celebrities are appearing as spokespersons for your campaign, audiences need to connect with them on an emotional level. You’ve got to be careful, though, with how you get them to open up and trust you.
In working with a celebrity, we’ll say, “No disrespect, but we’d like you to imagine yourself as an onion. We’ll help you decide how many layers you’re going to peel off and go public with. You’ll get to decide the things in your life you want to keep personal – where you work, who you’re dating, and where you kids are going to school.”
But the celebrity can be coaxed to share personal anecdotes from behind the scenes in his movies, or, if he’s an athlete, funny things that go on in the locker room. This humanizes him. Everyone loves bloopers!
Offer to sign a NDA (non disclosure agreement) prior to the training, so the celebrity will feel confident that you won’t reveal the personal things you learn in the session. Let them know up front that you will give them the training videos at the end of their training.
The CEO as Celebrity
We’ve been talking about movie stars and athletes. But many CEOs are considered celebrities, too. Just think of Mark Zuckerberg or the late Steve Jobs.
If you’re the PR Director in the CEO’s organization, when you walk into his office to coach him for a media interview or presentation, you have to be on equal footing. The CEO is turning to you for your expertise.
If the CEO isn’t having a good practice session, you’ve got to correct him. If you get pushback (some CEOs like to think they know everything) then politely – but fearlessly – point out what he could do better. Try not to use words like, “you’re wrong” or “that was bad.” Instead say, “that message would be stronger if you supported it with a key fact. For example …”
Explain the rules for media interviews. Just because the CEO may have a special relationship with a reporter, he should never say anything is “off the record.” That’s gone the way of the horse and buggy with the 24/7 news cycle and the media pouncing on every slip of the tongue for a leg up on the competition.
Celebrities are just like us. They appreciate a pat on the back. When you meet one for the first time be sure to compliment her on her latest film or TV series.
Once, when working on a product launch, the celebrity spokesperson walked into the training session weighted down with a very heavy gym bag. We knew that he was famous for his many gold chains, rings and watches, which he always wore – all at the same time.
Of course, we knew what was in the bag but we wanted an icebreaker so asked if he had just come from a workout. He laughed and told us that he used the gym bag to carry his jewelry when he traveled. He was more than happy to model every piece and that created a bond between us. Then we went to work.
You need to develop your own style when working with celebrities. We were asked to coach a well-known TV star who was a spokesperson for a big pharmaceutical company that manufactured a popular antidepressant. It was well known that this actress suffered from depression, which made her an appropriate spokesperson as she could speak from personal experience.
When we got to her hotel suite at 3 pm, she was still wearing her nightgown. She may have been having an off day. But after our respectful request, she agreed to throw on a sweater and jeans so we could get to work. The session went on without a hitch.
Celebrities want to feel like they’re being handled with kid gloves. But always remember who is paying the bill for their services – your client. Celebrities have a job to do and it’s up to you take control to ensure they perform at a level that generates the highest praise for your organization.