Forbes: The Nuances Of Celebrity And Non-Profit CollaborationThought Leadership, David Schwab, Forbes, Stephen Curry, First Call, Marketing, Media
Octagon First Call's David Schwab continued his regular contributions to Forbes with this piece about the complications of pairing celebrities with non-profit organizations.
Do we need to pay celebrities for non-profit services? How much of their time are they typically willing to lend? How do we determine ROI? Do we need to write a formal contract or will an email acceptance do?
These are the daily questions we get when helping non-profits determine when, why and how to use celebrities/influencers to support their causes. There are nuances to using talent that are important for non-profits to understand and consider throughout the planning and activation stages.
National Relevance: Most influencers want to associate with causes that have national relevance. There is a natural desire on all sides to be involved in the cause du jour (see: ice bucket challenge, disaster relief efforts). This greatly affects program interest from influencers and creates a sense of urgency to join the movement. It makes the initial ask easier, helps put the talent (and publicist) at ease with upcoming publicity, and makes the relationship feel current and relevant. Any backup material a non-profit can provide indicating national or global relevance, media momentum, and other high-profile supporters, is key to signing on additional celebrity support.
Personal Connection: Talent is more likely to support a cause that has personally affected them, their immediate family, business team or friends. In many cases, the strongest and most successful ambassador relationships stem from a personal connection with the cause, as talent has an emotional investment in the success of the program. The messages they deliver are extremely credible, and this type of credibility cannot be manufactured or staged.
Local Ties: If there is a specific location affiliated with the cause, target talent with organic ties to that region. If they were born in the area, went to the local university, currently play professional sports there or have a major corporate partner with heavy presence in the area, they might be more likely to participate. The more a charity can do to make the partnership seamless, the easier it will be to get the talent to say yes.
Individual Or Team Of Ambassadors: The marketing objectives and goals of the program will dictate how many ambassadors are needed and how many media touch points to leverage – advertising shoots, PR days (via phone or in national locations like NY and LA), congressional advocacy hearings, fundraising galas, social media pushes and more. Determining all of this up front will govern the type and number of ambassadors needed, along with their roles and services.
A Contract Or A Handshake: We don’t recommend using a standard endorsement contract for non-profit deals. A long-form contract is overbearing, and the complexity of the language could scare talent or their team. However, to protect the non-profit entity and its supporting marketing agencies, it is important to have an accepted short form document (even an email) that defines the basic services, usage rights and term of use.
To Pay Or Not To Pay: We do not pay celebrities for their non-profit work. It changes the dynamic of the relationship, making the partnership a business deal where finances ultimately hang over the association. There are thousands of influencers to choose from – hire those with a connection who want to help. Use the assets you control to entice talent – networking opportunities with C-level brand executives, exclusive experiences and/or financial/image building/media support for their own foundations.
Using Time Wisely: It is imperative to maximize the hours, even minutes, you have with talent. This is especially true because compensation is often limited to travel stipends, or sometimes nonexistent. For example, between media interviews you can capture a cellphone video shoutout to the board of directors, or collaborate on social posts while in the car en route to an event. Having talent capture photos or videos while they are already on set and camera ready for another event (with pre-approved directors, photographers and glam squad) greatly simplifies the ask. Lastly, a simple five-minute phone call from a celebrity to a prospective supporting brand CFO can be a multimillion-dollar deal closer. Don’t waste the precious clock.
One-Off Associations Or Long-Term Partners: As much as a non-profit would love to have a group of influencers actively support their cause year-round, that isn’t always practical. It is OK to use a celebrity for a one-off publicity stunt, an event appearance or another marketing tactic as long as it is consistent with the program’s overall objectives. We have counseled many non-profits (who already have a team of fully committed ambassadors on board) to partner with talent for one-offs to capitalize on current media opportunities.
As a non-profit marketer, don’t ever discard the possibility of working with influencers to promote your cause. Instead, consider it a potential game changer for your organization. With astute planning you can attract talent that will work for your cause to create effective messaging and maximize awareness.