Decoding the art of celebrity PR management

We asked industry experts to share insights on the nature and challenges of the job of celebrity PR managers

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Jun 22, 2020 11:42 AM

Celebrity PR management has always been treated with utmost importance, thanks to the crucial role of the job that comes with the extra responsibility to keep the persona of their client intact along with promotion and promising constant visibility in the public eye.

Media attention comes complimentary with the celebrity which is an added load to the job of PR managers. So, let us take a look at the glittery affair from the perspective of the PR managers.

Celebrity PR management - A different affair?

According to Parul Parmar, Independent Entertainment PR Professional, “Celebrity PR management is congruent to Brand Strategy and management. It involves meticulous communication strategy in tandem to the brand and breaking right messaging at the right time.”

“To be precise in answering, it is a mixture of active and reactive stories (the latter is sometimes more challenging and difficult to manage) In other sorts of PR management, reactive stories are way less than the positive communication pieces,” she added.

“What is unique to celebrity PR management is the noise around it since their personal lives are frequently a source of gossip, TRP's, readership etc.  While you are creating content out of the celebrity's work, associations and endorsements, a major part of the job is to cut the noise and blind articles around their personal lives,” Parmar explained.

According to Jashoda Madhavji, Founder, Dream N Hustle Media, “Our job is to prudently mould the public image of a celebrity, sometimes you’re pushing them into the limelight, and sometimes you need to know when to push them out. That’s the irony of publicity. Celebrities are more than a media creation – this phenomena dominates our culture and is taking on a more powerful role in people's lives.”

Akshay Kumar, a PR Professional, shared yet another aspect of difference in client servicing. “It totally depends upon the nature of the celebrity as well. Also, if you share a good connection with the celebrity, then it is all hunky dory, but you can't really expect a stress free job here. But sharing with my experience, I did coordinate for several movie promotions and some of them turned out to be really fun as well. It is tough to list out all but if I have to mention some names, Rajkumar Rao, Varun Dhawan, Ranveer Singh, Shahrukh, Shraddha, Priyanka Chopra, Swara Bhaskar, all were really nice and energetic during their movie promotions.” 

Work-Life balance: Does it exist?

Celebrities live under constant surveillance and attention. They are under the eye of the media throughout their life making celebrity reputation management even more essential. Excessive limelight results into working 24x7 for the PR managers resulting in no work-life balance. Kumar supported the fact by adding, “Managing celebrity PR is very different. One cannot expect work-life balance or a 9-6 job privilege from a celebrity PR job. There can be promotional events post-midnight as well and you have to keep your luggage ready all the time, especially in times of movie promotions.”

Managing the Reputation Crisis

Reputation is the essence of life in Bollywood. Managing this fragile commodity is an extremely sensitive case. Crisis management is just an everyday chorus in this field of work. Madhavji affirmed by saying, “Handling crisis can be one of the most important jobs for a publicist of a celebrity. Responses can vary if the celebrity states something derogatory or if he/she is trolled or a slice of private life becomes public and so on. It can be a short, quick response or the job can be developing a long-term strategy for a public makeover, if the public reputation is ruined. The publicist has to know how to respond to media inquiries and calm down the public, while also coming up with strategies to get the celebrity positive media coverage that overshadows the negative. “

The PR manager needs to excel in facing the media and calming queries. Ayuri Mishra- Business Developer Cineriser Digital Media PVT. LTD. said, “As a PR professional, assessing the strength of a celebrity client is very important. The PR needs to know how to respond to media inquiries and calm the public, while also developing strategies to ensure that celebrities have positive media coverage that overshadows the negative.”

Parmar threw light on other key strategies to be followed in managing reputation. She said, “In cases of crisis, one may have to contrive a quick response or in some cases, even an aggressive long-term public makeover for the client. However, it is important to align the client with the devised strategies. Other prerequisites would be to leverage the right relationships that one may have built over the years, draft 'scripts' comprising of right words and messaging, going beyond just the communication; planning and executing initiatives that contradict the new damaged image and the most important thing is to encourage the client to be anything but silent.”

Celebrity & brand associations

While being a brand in themselves, celebrities are apple of the eyes of brands. Popular brands encash the popularity of the celebrities to their benefits. Role of their publicists becomes all the more important here as they now have the baggage of two brands - one the celebrity and other the brand being endorsed. “The link between a celebrity and a brand is a fragile arrangement. Media is interested in the celebrity because they draw in their audience – readers, viewers, eyeballs and TRPs. The celebrity is usually interested in doing something that promotes his or her own brand, and the brand has an agenda of their own. The PR is there to navigate all these interests – to get positive exposure for the client, keep the celebrity engaged, focus on the message, and keep the media balanced. In a way, publicists offer alternate realities just like the celebrities through their art, and audiences have the option to choose the ones they resonate with the most,” Madhavji added.

Rumours & social media management

Trolls on social media are constant mongers in the lives of celebrities. Sometimes, celebrity too could be a reason of such trolls through an interview or opinion. With the media ready to backlash, it is essential to understand the sensitivity of the issue and then take a certain action. The most powerful defense would be to put out a clarification by the celebrity itself on social media in case of a serious issue, rather than fuelling fake stories with counter blind articles. People have limited attention spans and have so much content to alternate between that they’ll probably forget about the story anyway. Jashoda explains, “To counter trolling which is very rampant these days is to have a strong legion of online fans and to co-partner with like-minded influencers, media houses and brands for various online interactions that cement the celebrity’s personal brand image. Also, sometimes it’s absolutely normal to not counter every rumour and let your work actually speak for itself because a celebrity can’t be entertaining every rumour. The glam ecosystem is becoming more clustered, and, in turn, more competitive, as everyone is trying to grab their share of limelight. The landscape is changing rapidly.”

Same stress as celebrities themselves?

The job of a PR professional revolves around managing expectations of their clients and expectations bring stress. Be it a corporate PR management or celebrity PR management, stress surrounds the system. Regarded as one of the most stressful jobs in the world, celebrity PR management is misconceptualized. Glamour and perks do come but along with it comes loads of stress and crisis.

Kumar added, “Talking about celebrity PR specifically, it sure depends upon the client as well. It does get exhausting at times as clients get too pushy sometimes and it gets difficult to set their expectations right, but this stress is something one has to cope with and you eventually get used to it as well and become more resilient. However, talking about the glitz, the profession does not remain all glitzy for long. Once you get used to the work, it becomes business as usual.”

“It is a chaotic business. Your client is constantly under scrutiny. Every move is put on a Petri dish under a microscope. In this business, even silence and 'the unsaid' are sparks of stories and irrelevant gossip. So the job is stressful, yes. Hence it is extremely important to take personal time out for yourself to find the balance when time permits. But having said that, there is joy in identifying and cracking the right opportunities and synergies with apt platforms, communication and distribution handles,” concluded Parmar. 

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