How to Get Your Product into the Hands of a Celebrity
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It's many a business owner's dream to get the product they're so proud of in the hands of a star. In many cases a bit of stardust can have a huge impact on the success of your product, as celebrity watchers keep a close eye on these influential trendsetters. And with the right product, preparation, and persistence, a celebrity could be showing off your items on the red carpet. So, where do you start?
First you'll need a list of target celebrities, a database of media contacts, and a one-paragraph summary of your product or company for a press release. To grab attention, make sure your release includes the celebrity name, event information (when there is one), a paragraph about your product (plus cost and where to purchase it), names of VIPs (even local) or celebrities who have used it, your contact information and website, and your logo to reinforce your brand.
Then, use great packaging to capture attention. When Film Fashion was purchased by mega PR company Rogers & Cowan, my desk was positioned next to the great publicist Alan Nierob. Alan represents some of the biggest stars in the world, including Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, and Beyoncé. Before I saw it for myself, I wouldn't have believed how much stuff his clients got with every day's mail. This is why branding your product and the package it's delivered in is so important: You want your gift to stand out for the very reason a celebrity wants to stand out amongst his or her peers--to be memorable.
Next you must locate a publicist, costume designer, or stylist to get the ball rolling. Here are my best tips to reach them and the best approach to take with each one.
The celebrity's personal publicist is always the first place I start. Large public relation firms like Rogers & Cowan, Baker/Winokur/Ryder, IDPR, Ken Sunshine Consultants, Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, and 42West represent hundreds of celebrities. You will also come across boutique agencies and a handful of independent publicists. Websites like IMDbPro.com and WhoRepresents.com, can help build out your target list as well. These sites charge a fee to join, but your money will be well spent if celebrity marketing will skyrocket attention to your product.
Once you send the product, it might sit in the person's office for a few weeks before he or she will forward it to the client, so follow-up is essential. I follow up every two weeks, and sometimes am asked to resend my materials (so you'll want to e-mail descriptions and images before sending anything). And be sure to let them know whether you are loaning or gift away something, or inviting them to an event right up front.
You'll find that publicists will often offer up the names and phone numbers of stylists, which will help you build a database of stylist contacts to approach. You can also contact agencies that represent wardrobe stylists, hair stylists, and makeup artists. A quick Google search will yield some of the bigger agencies.
I even study magazines to pick up on who the hottest stylists are. I read the small print usually found along the side of the photo. If you do this for a while, you'll become familiar with many stylists' names. Stylists need fashion merchandise for their busy clients. Anyone can find Chanel, but stylists must dig deeper to find undiscovered product that might put a celebrity client in the fashion media.
Costume designers are so valued in the industry they have their own award category at the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards, and their own annual Costume Designer Guild Awards. And the best news? Costume designers have a budget for purchasing any wardrobe used for a project. The easiest method of locating them is through the Costume Designers Guild. The guild will charge a fee to send information about your business to all its 900-plus members, but it could be well worth your while. You can also research the names of the people you want to reach on IMDb.com. Then, send information on your brand through snail mail to the studio, care of the show or film and the person's name. Alternatively, you can look them up on Twitter and Facebook.
Overall, I suggest starting with a celebrity's publicist, but realize this person might refer you to the next person on your list. Don't give up. Sometimes I've even been referred to a best friend, spouse, or sweetheart. There is always someone on the star's team who is responsible for his or her image and who will be interested in your gift.
To find out whether a celebrity is using your product, follow the star's comings and goings on entertainment websites like WireImage.com or GettyImages.com. These are other services like PR Photos, Splash News, FilmMagic, World Entertainment News Network, Pacific Coast News, Patrick McMullan Company, and Elevation Photos, where you can access the latest photos of celebrities at events. If you know in advance that you've snagged a celebrity to wear your product on the red carpet, these are also the photo agencies you'll contact so you will own your own image. Chances are good that they will be sending a staff photographer to cover the event anyway, and when you call, you can confirm that they have the credentials secured already.
Excerpted from Will Work For Shoes: The Business Behind Red Carpet Product Placement (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2011) by Susan J. Ashbrook. Susan J. Ashbrook has been involved in celebrity product placement for 20 years. She founded Film Fashion, the first fashion product placement company in Los Angeles.