Monday, June 24, 2024

The evolution of celebrity PR

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In January 2024, we experienced the introduction of Apis Honey, endorsed by actress Sanya Malhotra, who is known not only for her acting but also for her dedication to fitness and mindful lifestyle. Her alignment with the product resonated well, highlighting the changing dynamics of celebrity endorsements. Conversely, Poonam Pandey’s ill-fated publicity stunt in February 2024, falsely claiming her own death, underscored the risks of misusing social media for attention, resulting in significant backlash.
Over the years, celebrity endorsements have been instrumental in shaping brand identity and fostering consumer connections. Celebrities bring an inherent aura and relatability, elevating a brand’s visibility and embedding it in the consumer’s psyche. The advent of social media has revolutionised celebrity PR, shifting from controlled narratives to constant engagement with fans. Publicity stunts have become a regular feature for celebrities, whether it is to promote their new movie launch, increase the follower base of their social handles, or refuel their dwindling fame. Take, for instance, Vikrant Massey’s recent video that went viral showing him arguing with a cab driver. There isn’t much doubt that such videos are part of the publicity stunt, and many viewers can see through such content. Platforms like Instagram were earlier used by stars to actively engage with their millions of followers, so that they built on loyalty and amplified voices beyond traditional media, but such social platforms have started getting frivolous.
Authenticity has become paramount in this digital age, with consumers expecting genuine interactions from both brands and celebrities alike. But these days, we often see staged public conflicts or provocative posts by celebrities to ignite online buzz. Platforms like Instagram stories often offer unfiltered glimpses into celebrities’ lives, fostering trust and humanising their personas while also garnering criticism for inappropriateness.
However, the immediacy of social media can also magnify missteps, turning minor incidents into full-blown PR crises. Akshay Kumar’s endorsement of a pan masala brand in 2023, contradicting his earlier stance on endorsing such products, is a prime example of how social media can quickly amplify inconsistencies and draw public scrutiny. Despite the risks, social media empowers celebrities to champion causes they care about, leveraging their platforms to raise awareness and mobilise action. Celebrities like Emma Watson and Leonardo DiCaprio have effectively used their reach to drive positive change on issues like gender equality and environmental activism.
The rise of micro-influencers further complicates the celebrity PR landscape, with marketers increasingly leveraging individuals with smaller but highly engaged followings to reach specific audiences. Celebrities are also embracing partnerships with micro-influencers to diversify their reach and connect with niche markets.
Community management has become integral to navigating the social media landscape, with dedicated teams responsible for fostering positive online interactions and mitigating negativity. This emphasis on maintaining a favourable online presence underscores the importance of adaptability and resilience in the face of evolving platforms and audience expectations.
In conclusion, the evolution of celebrity PR in the age of social media has ushered in a new era of constant engagement and heightened scrutiny. While the digital landscape presents unique challenges, it also offers unprecedented opportunities for celebrities to connect with fans, champion causes, and shape their public image. Staying relevant in the eyes of ever-discerning audiences is the key game for all celebrities, unfortunately, many of them resort to provocative or controversial content to garner their 90 second fame.

(The author is Smita Khanna, COO, of Newton Consulting.)

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