What to Look for in Hiring a Celebrity or Subject Matter Spokesperson

An interview with Deb Durham, President of SPOKESPERSONS PLUS NETWORK®

What do you look for in a spokesperson?

Whether you seek a subject matter expert or a celebrity spokesperson, credibility is the #1 quality to look for. You only want a spokesperson who can authentically get behind your brand’s messaging and has the credentials that support it.

post1 For example, my company secured Anna Post, Emily Post’s great-great granddaughter and an etiquette expert in her own right, for Intel’s Mobile Etiquette campaign.

Anna is 30-something, has the perfect background, and in addition to the media activities booked by Intel’s PR folks, Anna was able to incorporate Intel’s messaging into interviews she was doing on her own to promote the recently launched the 18th Edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, of which she is co-author.

Secondly, make sure that the spokesperson has not recently worked with competing brands, e.g. Pampers vs. Huggies. And, it’s essential to vet the spokesperson for similar work she may be doing for another brand at the same time. For example, you would not want a spokesperson to be doing an SMT (satellite media tour) for another brand two weeks before yours even if the other brand is non-competitive. Why? There will be an overlap in booking of interviews which will cannibalize the number of interviews for both SMTs.

Lastly, ideally you want a spokesperson who is already media savvy with some TV interviews under her belt. But if not, you will especially want to do media training.

Where do you find a spokesperson?

Two ways. You can search for spokespeople on your own or you can find partners to save you time and money. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, check out Google or Amazon for experts in the field you want. Research all the TV shows for host and celeb talent – sitcoms, reality shows, HGTV, Food Network, Bravo, OWN, Style Network, etc. Then track down their reps. Contact spokespeople individually.

Or, you can work through talent agents, speaker bureau agents, managers, and spokesperson brokers who can give you lists of names that meet your spokesperson criteria.

What is the difference between an agent, a manager and broker and how do you choose which one to use?

Agent: Tasked with securing a TV show or other goals of the talent; their priority is to push their finite list of talent so you will get a list of just their agency’s talent. This means you will likely be seeking out many agents which takes more time and it will take longer if you do not know how to get to the agent for a particular talent.

Manager: Oversees a talent’s career and has a set roster of talent; usually more proactive than an agent in cultivating a talent; will only know and promote their roster of talent to you. Again, if you do not have the connections, there is the extra time it will take you to get to the right reps for talent you are interested in.

Broker: Has access to virtually all talent agents and managers as well as spokespeople without representation and has the brand’s interests as #1 priority. Full disclosure: My company SPOKESPERSONS PLUS NETWORK® is a spokesperson brokerage firm. We do the legwork culling candidates from a vast network of contacts built up over 30+ years to meet your specific spokesperson needs. We are adding new spokespeople to the database continuously so there are always fresh faces. We can get to anyone whether celebrity or expert. I started my career as a spokesperson so I understand the job from both in front of and behind the camera.

When should you hire a subject matter expert and when should you hire a celebrity?

Hire a Celebrity Spokesperson

  • When money is (relatively) no object.
  • When you want bragging rights and instant name recognition.
  • When you want to attract a large crowd at an event whether B2C or B2B When the assignment requires just few appearance days to get the biggest bang for the buck.
  • When there’s interest in licensing the person’s name on brand merchandise.
Kristin Chenoweth

A great example is Kristin Chenoweth, Emmy/Tony Award Winning actress and singer.

Bulova hired her for a high profile trade show where many watch brands were competing to attract watch buyers to attend their respective private events on opening night.

Bulova sought a performer who embodied the “Precision and Accuracy” of the brand. Kristen knocked it out of the park by including Bulova in “As Time Goes By.”

Hire a Subject Matter Expert Spokesperson

  • When a targeted expertise vs. celebrity notoriety is most important to brand messaging.
  • When budget is more modest and you want very hands-on involvement.
  • When the deliverables involve more than a few targeted appearance days.

When TaxACT sought a personal finance expert who would appeal to the guy next door, they chose Ellie Kay, America’s Family Finance Expert® for Fox & Friends and ABC’s Money Matters TV appearances as well as a series of blogs. Another expert, Beauty & Style Maven, Alison Deyette, was chosen to represent skincare line Perricone MD for guest appearances on QVC and The Shopping Channel.

With the proliferation of such networks as HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Bravo, Travel Channel, etc., plus the booming pool of bloggers, there are more expert spokesperson options available now than ever before. Many of these experts cross over into the celebrity category. Think Bobby Flay or Dr. Phil. Look for experts with high social media stats for maximum exposure as well as for spokespeople with longevity in their area of expertise. Don’t hire a celebrity just for celebrity’s sake. 

How do you negotiate the services you get from your spokesperson? Are there certain things you should never ask them to do?

When vetting spokesperson candidates for a campaign, you will get the most accurate fee quotes if you can tell them the:

  • Brand – what product(s) or at least the product category;
  • Deliverables – exactly what you want the spokesperson to do;
  • Non-compete – how inclusive; what product categories; and
  • Term – length; expect to pay more if you want non-compete post-Term.

Know that just because a spokesperson or her rep quotes $X, does not mean she won’t take less than $X. The rubber hits the road when you make an offer, especially when dealing with agents. The offer is the point at which a deal becomes real. So offer less than they ask for.

Don’t ask the spokesperson for additional deliverables after the contract has been signed unless you are prepared to pay more. You have the most leverage when you are making the offer so make sure you’ve included every ask you want.

What do you do when a spokesperson doesn’t deliver?

If you’ve fully vetted the spokesperson before signing on the dotted line, hopefully you will not have to deal with a spokesperson who does not provide the agreed upon services. The contract is where this should be spelled out. Typically there are both morals and cancellation clauses to protect the brand and the fee is pro-rated depending on the point of dismissal if the spokesperson does not rectify a breach within a specified amount of time. Never pay 100% of the fee upfront. It’s customary to pay one third to one-half of the fee upon signing contract.

Why should your spokesperson get media and/or presentation training? 

No matter how experienced a spokesperson is, it is always a good idea to do media training. Why?

First, the brand needs to know how the messaging will be delivered realistically during interviews so that everyone’s expectations are the same.

Second, you want to make sure the spokesperson is completely comfortable with how he will deliver the messaging. With the help of a media training pro, both the brand and the spokesperson will work out the best ways to deliver the messaging so that a) it is consistent with what the brand wants the audience to know about the product; b) the spokesperson learns to deliver message points seamlessly and in his own voice so that interviews are as organic as possible; and c) the interview will be an acceptable balance of product mentions and informative and interesting content for the media you want to attract.

The Newman Group is interested in hearing about your experience in hiring and working with third-party spokespeople. Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Deb DurhamAn interview with Deb Durham, President of SPOKESPERSONS PLUS NETWORK®  which matches spokespersons with brands. Deb Durham is a 30+ year veteran and pioneer in the spokesperson industry with a unique dual perspective. She’s worked in front of the camera as a 3rd party spokesperson herself as well as behind the camera, brokering deals between hundreds of expert and celebrity spokespeople and major brands. 

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The Newman Group is a recognized leader in guiding business professionals, celebrities and authors to improve their communications skills in presentations and media interviews.

Our highly skilled and experienced professionals have the expertise in media and presentation training to meet any business situation — from helping an executive to prepare for the challenge of talking to a reporter during a business crisis to presenting a group of investors during an IPO or keeping a celebrity spokesperson on point.