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Celebrity Placements are the "Holy Grail" of Marketing. Here's How to Score One for Free. Organic celebrity endorsements are a complicated art, but they easily transform into dollars if you play your cards right.

By Priscila Martinez

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Patrik Giardino | Getty Images

I can vividly recall the first time I fell victim to a celebrity product endorsement. Paris Hilton was captured sporting a brightly colored Juicy Couture tracksuit in the streets of L.A. The getup cost more than a month's expenses on my student allowance, but I just had to have it. This experience is not only seared into my memory, but it also testifies to the power of celebrity.

The landscape has changed since the days Paris Hilton strutted down Robertson Boulevard. Nowadays, celebrity placements come with a hefty price tag. In the age of social media, public personalities have learned to leverage their popularity and transform it into dollars. But organic, or non-paid, celebrity endorsements still happen often. When one happens to you or business, you will instantly recognize the selling power of celebrities.

Landing an organic celebrity placement is a science, and it typically requires a pricey public relations firm. With tact and tenacity, you can be on your way to finding the holy grail with these tips.

Start with gatekeepers

Unless you want to pay a lot upfront, landing a celebrity endorsement will take time. Outreach needs to be strategic and shouldn't start directly with the celebrity. People constantly bombard talent with offers and free products, so yours may get lost in the mix. Instead of trying to immediately infiltrate a celebrity's conscience, you should start by targeting their gatekeepers.

Your celebrity target trusts the opinions of their group and is more likely to pay attention when gatekeepers use or recommend a great product or service. Research the circle and those your celebrity interacts with on a day-to-day basis, especially within the category of your product or business. For instance, if you have a makeup brand, target their makeup artist. If you are looking to seed a wellness item, a go-to would be a trainer. The same strategy bodes well for a fashion item and the talent's stylist. Other personalities to consider are managers, agents, publicists and anybody in their glam squad. All of these people yield a quiet influence you can capitalize on.

Related: Get to Know the 3 Types of Influencers

Don't "spray and pray"

Publicists often joke about brands that "spray and pray." These brands gift massive amounts of product to everyone and their mother. Then they sit back and pray that an influencer or celebrity is spotted with their product.

Instead of sending product to a massive list of personalities, be thoughtful and studied in your approach. Only send gifts to celebrities who both vibe with your brand ethos and are likely to use your product. Certain talent is more prone to being captured by photographers. These types of celebrities are more likely to organically have your product in their pictures, which you can use for press. This subset of talent changes constantly, but a good way of keeping track is by monitoring celebrity photo sites like Backgrid and Startrack. Nail down a tight list of celebrities who are both a fit for your brand and constantly appear on these sites. Next, research their team on databases like IMDB or Celebrity Intelligence.

Related: How Machine Learning Is Changing Influencer Marketing

Timing is everything

If your celebrity target is about to get married, can your product be an asset to their upcoming nuptials? Being strategic with timing pays off in dividends. Send a note to their manager offering free products for their life events. This works especially well for alcohol brands. Other milestones you can time your outreach to include birthdays, anniversaries or upcoming box office releases.

Related: Here's Why Brands Are Failing at Influencer Campaigns (and What to Focus on in 2021)

Post-placement actions

After an organic celebrity placement is secured, amplification is key. It doesn't matter if your dream celebrity is sporting your product when the press and consumers aren't made aware. In order to give your placement legs, you need to reach out to entertainment press with a product credit. Your target list of journalists should include weekly entertainment magazines, like People and Us Weekly. You should also target high-volume digital entertainment and celebrity news sites with your outreach. The credit information you provide these journalists should include a link to buy and price. If you participate in affiliate programs, include that in your note to the press as well.

Scoring an organic celebrity placement isn't easy, but it will always be well worth it. Take a studied approach and have patience, because the holy grail always delivers.

Priscila Martinez

Founder and CEO

Priscila Martinez is a marketing and communications professional based in Los Angeles where she helms two firms. She acts as CEO for The Brand Agency and in 2020 she founded 1795 Communications, the first female-led firm dedicated solely to the cannabis industry.

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