What it is like to work as a Personal Publicist to promote and brand an actor?
Professional Social Media Strategist/Personal Publicist, Joy Kennelly knows exactly what goes on behind the scenes when working with an actor or other Celebrity to promote their work and themselves. Joy’s experience working red carpet events with her clients has successfully ensured the media develops her client’s personal brand through her efforts.
As the strategist behind the brand, Joy Kennelly discusses the world of celebrity marketing, branding and promotion.
How did you get into this industry?
I’ve been in the entertainment industry for many years and working with talent has always brought a lot of glamour and exposure to whatever I do. When I first started in the business, I produced the Short Pictures International Film Festival (SPIFF) for five years. During that time I worked with a variety of talent over the years, including Forrest Whitaker and Eriq La Salle, among others.
Since that time, I’ve seen a lot of my SPIFF filmmakers make it to the next level, most recently Tariq Jalil (Executive Producer of Marmaduke) and Jason Reitman (You know who this guy is – GO CANADA!). It’s very gratifying to see people I’ve worked with achieve what they want in the business.
Who have you personally worked with to create their brand?
Domiziano Arcangeli is an Italian actor who was very well-known in Europe before coming to the U.S. When we first began working together he wanted to re-brand himself as a bad guy after being type-cast as a gay character in a very successful U.S. TV series for four years.
We discussed his goals and then I wrote his bio, upgraded his website, helped him shoot and select new headshots to create a new look and developed an overall presentation package. I combined this effort with social media marketing and red carpet branding to help him successfully achieve his goals within a year.
If a certain red carpet event fit with his new image, I would pitch him to attend and more often than not, because we were selective and chose appropriately, he would be accepted. One thing that Domi understood, having achieved fame overseas which some actors don’t understand when they’re starting out, is when you are on the red carpet or attending an event – you are working.
As a Celebrity you are always branding your image to the media and the public. There is no point of attending an event when no one knows who you are or why you are there which is a mistake many new actors and actresses make.
When you go to an event it is important that the photographers know your credits and understand that they can sell your pictures in order for them to shoot you in the first place. For Domi I would often tell the paparazzi that he’s appeared in a Fellini film and some of his recent credits. Because his name is so difficult to spell I would also show a small sign or pass out business cards to make sure they gave him proper credit on Getty Images or wherever the images were available after the event.
The same was true when working with Chef David Linville. We attended numerous Food & Wine Festivals together and the reason he was accepted so often was the bio I wrote for him and his experience working at very high-end restaurants. Having worked around so many photographers on the red carpet, I understood how to wrangle shots from roving photographers on-site which gave him a more visible presence at these events than other chefs who were working without a publicist.
This also occurred when I attended the Pre-Inaugural Brunch Congresswoman Jane Harmon threw in honor of President Obama’s Inauguration of which I was also a guest. As a publicist, I knew that all the South Bay City Council Members in attendance, combined with Congresswoman Jane Harmon, would make a great photo op and coordinated numerous pictures which ultimately ended up in the local newspapers after I pitched the images to the editors upon our return.
So many young actors and actors go to an event and they don’t understand having a publicist with them representing them to the media and photographers is so important to move their career forward. Rumor has it, Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he first got started never went anywhere without a publicist which was a very savvy move on his part.
Stan Rosenfeild is a very successful Personal Publicist in Hollywood who I’ve learned from over the years by observing and taking classes from him. He represents all the big name actors, (George Clooney, Robert Deniro, Danny DeVito, Kelly Ripa and Helen Mirren), to name a few. You will see him at every event making sure his client is well represented and knows who to speak to, for how long, and who to avoid.
I’ve learned a lot of what I do professionally from him even though we’ve never worked together. I also read a lot of marketing and branding books which everyone can benefit from in any level of their career.
How do you keep your clients in the limelight?
Social Media is very influential right now. I normally blog about them because whatever I write about appears in the top ten searches of Google and draws anything else that is written about my clients to the top of the searches too. After that, I tweet and post it around wherever I believe the information will draw the most attention, both online and with the media.
I believe it is also very important for an actor to have a Facebook fan page and a web site. Take Vin Diesel for instance. Vin has a great fan page with over 8 million fans. ( http://www.facebook.com/VinDiesel ) It gives his fans a chance to interact with him, builds his brand, and lets him get news out without going through the media. He’s successful because he’s authentic.
I also am a big believer in branding a client on the red carpet at special events because that’s where the actor is seen by producers, directors and others who potentially might hire them. Also, the media covering the event will highlight clients if it fits their story and the event publicist has included them on the tip sheet. The more actors are seen, the more they’re remembered.
Same goes for publicists. I often would see the same photographers from event to event and because they knew me and trusted my choice in clients even when they didn’t know my actor, they would shoot them and put them up on Getty Images because they knew I was a professional. My relationship with PR agencies was the same way. They trusted my clients and I to show up when we said we would attend which makes an event publicist’s job easier too.
As a PR professional what do you see as some of the biggest mistakes in celebrity PR?
Actors need to realize when they are out in public, they are working and need to always be on and professional. A good example of personal branding is Kim Kardashian and a bad example is Lindsay Lohan. One brand moves this person’s career forward, the other is moving it backward.
If you do drugs and alcohol then you don’t have control of what you say and your image is damaged. You also have the potential to lose work. You need to figure out how you want to be perceived and then focus only on that. You are your own brand and you’re either building it up, or you’re tearing it down.
What about celebrities who put their foot in their mouth?
I’ve learned over the years that if you are genuinely apologetic then the public will accept it if it’s done sincerely, you correct your mistake and enough time passes. If it is a consistent thing however, then it will be a problem. Actors must remember that they are employees of whoever they’re working with and sometimes need to keep their opinions to themselves.
Who in your opinion are some of the best spoken actors/actresses? What goes into training these people?
Nicole Kidman is a good example; she shows up on time and is always the consummate professional promoting her work. She has learned how to divert questions she doesn’t want to answer and keeps her private life private.
A big part of training is coaching – what to say, what not to say, how to pitch themselves in sound bites, what angles to pose in, what clothes to wear, which events to attend, which ones to decline – it’s the complete marketing package which I helped my clients with all of this.
When you think brand you always want to match your brand to what you want to accomplish. A personal brand also doesn’t come over-night, but is the result of persistent, patient steps in the direction of the goals you want to achieve. As long as you keep that at the forefront of your mind it will guide you towards successfully accomplishing your goals.
How important is online promotion compared to the traditional methods of newspaper/TV?
I think that traditional methods are going away, or combining with social media to create an even stronger impact. Social Media is key at this point in the game. You’re either learning and adapting to this medium, or you will be left behind.
One of the keys to becoming successful is realizing how important it is to have a platform that is accessible and inter-active unlike a traditional web site. Communicating with people, providing value, and establishing trust by being authentic are key components in this world and brand development.
If someone would like more information on Personal Publicity or Social Media and Blogging where can they go?
I’m always open to being contacted professionally through Linked in (http://www.linkedin.com/in/joyKennelly).
I also am available to speak on this topic focusing on Blogging because that’s my passion. I tailor this talk to any audience too to make it relevant to their industry which makes it fun to present.