PR TECHNIQUE: CELEBRITIES - Requirements of the rich and famous: how to deal with celebrities - Celebrities are becoming increasingly important in promotions and getting messages across. They can be difficult - and fun - to work with. Diane Clehane gets s

These days it seems that companies can’t launch a brand or host an event without enlisting the aid of a celebrity. Whether the bold-faced name is from film, television, music, modeling or sports, savvy publicists know there are winning strategies in dealing with stars. It’s no secret that most larger-than-life personalities (and an even greater number of 15-minute wonders) generally have out-sized requirements.

These days it seems that companies can’t launch a brand or host an event without enlisting the aid of a celebrity. Whether the bold-faced name is from film, television, music, modeling or sports, savvy publicists know there are winning strategies in dealing with stars. It’s no secret that most larger-than-life personalities (and an even greater number of 15-minute wonders) generally have out-sized requirements.

These days it seems that companies can’t launch a brand or host an

event without enlisting the aid of a celebrity. Whether the bold-faced

name is from film, television, music, modeling or sports, savvy

publicists know there are winning strategies in dealing with stars. It’s

no secret that most larger-than-life personalities (and an even greater

number of 15-minute wonders) generally have out-sized requirements.



’There’s a lot of hand-holding,’ admits Lisa Hollenberg Rowan, director

of publicity for Planned Television Arts, a division of Ruder Finn. ’The

most important thing you can do as a publicist is keep a celebrity cool

and calm, because if they get riled up and say, ’That’s it,’ that could

mean the end of whatever project you’re working on.’



While it’s important for a publicist to keep a celebrity on an even

keel, it’s often even more critical for a flack to keep calm. ’You have

to bite your lip a lot,’ says Hollenberg Rowan, who recalls a

less-than-pleasant experience dealing with Faye Dunaway on a book tour.

’She made me wait in the (hotel) lobby. She then proceeded to live up to

her Mommie Dearest character and yell at me - and the hotel staff - the

whole morning.’



But it’s all in a day’s work, says the PR pro. ’The important thing is

that you get the job done you were hired to do no matter what it takes

to do it.’



Those requirements have become more and more elaborate, says Rita

Tateel, president of The Celebrity Source, a Los Angeles-based company

that secures celebrities for events like store openings. ’The

celebrities know they are more in demand than ever. So they can ask for

the moon - and get it.’



But that doesn’t mean there aren’t creative ways to snare an A-lister

without flashing cash or offering four-star accommodations. To get a

well-known TV star to participate in a local fair, Tateel came up with

the idea of inviting the star’s family to come along and gave them the

royal treatment for the day, while promising the celeb he was only

needed for a short time.



Patience is not only a virtue but a requirement when dealing with

celebs, says Dina Wise, account director at Harrison & Schriftman, New

York. ’Celebrities are busy people. You have to work with their

schedule. You wind up spending a lot of time waiting.’



Wise says that accommodating requests also plays an important role in

keeping a star happy and publicity-friendly. ’No matter what they ask

for, the answer is ’No problem,’’ says Wise. ’You want popcorn that is

only sold in New Mexico? No problem. You need shoes for your dress that

have to be special ordered from Malaysia? No problem.’



Sheila Clary, president of Celebrity Focus, a Northbrook, IL casting

agency, says that it is important to warn the star as early as possible

that the schedule may be flexible. ’Last minute changes just never go

over well,’ she says.



Kelly Edwards, press representative for CBS’ The Early Show, says it’s

important to foster a relationship with a celebrity that strikes the

right balance between professional and personal. The CBS PR pro learned

this firsthand last fall when she accompanied Byrant Gumbel and Jane

Clayson on an extensive media tour.



’We were put in lots of stressful situations together,’ she says.



’But we bonded as a group because we kept our sense of humor. As a

publicist, you’ve got to be able to crack a few jokes and keep things

light when people get tired and are looking for the time when they can

be themselves.



Sometimes it’s difficult to be an advisor, publicist and friend - and

you don’t want to go too far there - but they are all part of the

job.’



Edwards stresses that there is a lot more to dealing with celebrities

than being a ’yes’ man - it takes lots of preparation. That means being

familiar enough with the publication and writer to discuss why the celeb

should do an interview. At the same time, you can’t overwhelm him or her

with details. ’A celebrity doesn’t have a lot of time to spend sifting

through lots of papers or listening to you if you’re not focused on the

matter at hand,’ she says.



Howard Rubenstein, president of Rubenstein & Associates, whose clients

include Donald Trump, Michael Jackson, David Letterman and George

Steinbrenner, says that gaining the celebrity’s trust is essential.

’Confidentiality is extremely important. My clients know I won’t leak

anything.’



But even a call in the middle of the night from a beat reporter can

spell disaster for a publicist representing a star if he or she takes

unnecessary risks, says Rubenstein. ’You can’t ever assume you know what

your client will say. I won’t make up a quote. Sometimes reporters call

at deadline and say, ’Can’t you just give me something?’ I never do. I

always check with them.’



Despite the pressure of dodging bullets and tending to enormous egos,

publicists who deal with celebrities say it’s all worth it - and

fun.



And the job is not without its perks. ’The major plus of traveling with

a celebrity is that you always go first class,’ says Hollenberg Rowan.

’That’s not something that comes with every job.’





DOs AND DON’Ts



DO



1. Remember this phrase: ’No problem.’ It’s not the star’s problem, it’s

yours. Find a way to fix it without letting your client or guest know

about it.



2. Be realistic. Don’t ask an A-list celebrity to attend a B-list

event.



3. Offer perks. Celebrities love getting goodies - the newest cell

phone, a week at a spa, the latest computer.



4. Remember that time is a celebrity’s most valuable commodity. Keep

meetings brief, schedule events carefully and don’t leave a star

unattended with nothing to do.





DON’T



1. Lie about anything when dealing with celebrities, their agents or

their publicists. It is career suicide.



2. Be starstruck. Remember you’re there to do a job, whether it’s

selling books or raising awareness of a health issue.



3. Treat one celebrity different from another. If you’re hosting an

event with multiple stars, make sure every one of them is treated the

same - like royalty.



4. Gossip. Aunt Edna might want to know what Mr. Morning Television is

really like, but keep your mouth shut. It’s unprofessional.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.