In public relations, celebrities have often been used to influence and appeal to the mass market on a global scale, whereas publicists’ responsibility has been to build and maintain the celebrity brand. This phenomenon goes a long way back, with Max Clifford and Edward Bernays being two recognised names in the PR industry that generated headlines for their celebrity clients in the early 1900s, according to Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans in their book ‘Exploring Public Relations’.
However, with the growth of social media rapidly increasing, you could argue that the necessity for publicists to manage a celebrity’s status is decreasing, as many celebrities are now choosing to control their own personal statements and communicate directly with the publics on a more personal level. Still, I believe that many celebrities have publicists that have a saying regarding how they portray themselves on social networks, and that they are partly in charge of the content that is being published.
Regardless of this, the concept of open communication through social platforms has largely had positive outcomes for the celebrity and the publicist, as they are able to respond to public inquiries and other public issues in a more accurate and authentic way. I believe that this has ultimately created a more positive perception of the celebrity brand, and provided more opportunities to build celebrity recognition in the industry.
However, it appears that the social platforms are increasingly putting up obstacles for celebrities to manage their profiles in a natural and consistent way. For instance, earlier this year, the popular visual content-sharing tool Instagram released an updated policy whereas it appeared that the app’s owners could use users’ pictures without any notification. This is a tool that is being used by many celebrities, and it allows followers to get a more personal insight into their daily lives. Consequently, many celebrities threatened to delete their profiles, but the policy rule acclaimed to have been a misconception. (It is unknown if this had something to do with the “celebrity boycott threat”)
Furthermore, it was recently announced that Facebook would be testing a feature whereas users will be charged if they want to send a messages to people outside their “Facebook friends”, such as high-profiled people and celebrities. For instance, if you would like to send a message to musician Ed Sheeran, you could be charged up to £11 for it. Although this is a test project, I believe that this could damage the perception of using social media to reach celebrities on a personal level, and that publicists may find it harder to justify paying a price to be able to communicate with their clients. It would be interesting to review how the reactions will be on this development. (You could read more about the “test project” in this article)
Overall, social media has opened up for more private and direct communication with celebrities, and allowed them to be presented in a different light. Still, I believe that publicists are needed to monitor and evaluate the efforts of the celebrity brand, as everything they do and say will now be more broadcasted than ever before. Hopefully, the social networks will not prevent this development by restricting access or creating other obstacles.
How do you perceive that social media has changed the relationship between celebrities and their publicists? Do you think that social platforms are creating advantages or difficulties for celebrities?