The growing importance of Celebrity PR in the era of cancel culture

Think cinema, especially Bollywood, and all the glitzy, glamorous images come to mind – the ravishing red carpet looks, the picture perfect airport looks, Instagram videos, Page 3 parties, et al.

While an army of people comprising stylists, make-up and hair artists, dress designers, photographers are present to make the celebrities to put their best face forward, there is another army that works behind the scenes to ensure that the image of the celebrity is also perfect and to keep them out of any controversy – sometimes self-created.

Welcome to the world of celebrity PR.

Celebrity PR is there to navigate all the interests of the celebrity – to get positive exposure for the client, keep the celebrity engaged, focus on the message, and keep the media balanced. Even if the celebrity is not working on any project, celebrity PR makes it a point to keep him/ her in the news for something or the other. Over the years, celebrity PR has evolved, but, with social media coming in, the dynamics have changed.

Commenting on how the PR for celebrities evolved over the years, Akilesh Subramanian, Founder, Glocal Slam Dunk Communications, said, “Earlier, PR would play a pivotal role for a celebrity for example, during a film release or any brand endorsements. However, with the social media boom, fans and audiences today need to constantly consume content about your client for them to sustain a connection. While, on one hand, this has led to some innovative marketing techniques, on the other hand, PR teams are now on the client’s social media 24x7, keeping a close tab on the general public opinion.”

The grass is not always green, there are instances where celebrities happen to make certain comments or associate themselves with such conversations that make them a prey of social media trolling. Handling such crises can be one of the most important jobs for a PR representative of a celebrity. For example, Shah Rukh Khan faced a lot of backlash after his son was allegedly involved with drugs. Akshay Kumar recently faced flak on social media after appearing in an ad for Vimal Elaichi.

Glocal Slam Dunk Communications’ Subramanian explained, “Managing a crisis is the most important aspect of PR and social media – you never know what might rub them wrongly, so you always need to anticipate and strategise, plan and execute immediately as you do not have the luxury of time before everything goes spiralling.”

Maddie Amrutkar, Founder & CEO of GladUCame, noted, “Since the advent of social media, there has been a paradigm shift in celebrity public relations. Every day, new opportunities and challenges emerge. In this day and age, where everything is closely monitored, from a new movie release to managing a celebrity crisis, the public relations team must be agile and have a focused plan to douse the flames! However, there is a minor drawback to this. With the recognition of public relations comes increased responsibilities and pressures, often with low pay! Understanding the lag is also important.”

The responsibility of a PR professional is not only limited to engaging the celebrity with the media, but also promoting and creating the buzz around the films that their client is in. For example, Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap got into a heated spat on Twitter and they left their audience completely mind boggled. However, later the two confessed that it was just a promotional stunt for their upcoming film ‘AK vs AK’. As part of a promotional strategy for ‘Bobby Jasoos’, lead actor Vidya Balan dressed as a beggar and sat outside the Hyderabad Railway Station. She was also see roaming the streets of Kolkata in a ‘pregnant’ state to promote her film, ‘Kahaani’.

However, not every time these quirky promotional strategies work. Sony Liv was heavily criticised for ‘spine chilling’ promotional of its thriller Undekhi after people received calls from telecallers where a man was heard saying that he has recorded a murder on his phone in a very distressed voice. He calls himself Rishi and says that one ‘Rinku’ is attempting to murder him too. This is before another voice says “Undekhi… streaming now on Sony Liv.”

After the outrage, SonyLiv issued an apology for their marketing technique. The statement said, ‘If you have received a call for our show Undekhi & it has disturbed you we would like to sincerely apologise to you. This was a test activity which has gone out accidentally & our intention was not to cause any kind of discomfort or panic. We sincerely regret any inconvenience’.

Speaking about the PR for movies, Namita Rajhans, Co-Founder, Shimmer Entertainment “PR happens when a movie is released, because we do pre event release and we do post-event release. PR has all the hands of getting the movie right. If I'm a publicist and I have to make this film, I'll put my all angles in it. PR is important when the movie is released, because after the movie only we can do promotions. Before the movie, we can do promotions, but the PR is only effective on how the turn out of the movie is. Eventually it's all in the movie, the PR is not responsible for the success of a film, but the PR is responsible for the promotions and putting out the right articles so people go and watch it.”


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