Celebrities speak out on political issues – good or bad PR?

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Celebrities play a more difficult role than what we would like to think. They are key opinion leaders but they also happen to be human beings with their own opinions and the need to express themselves. The difference relies on the spectrum their comments and ideas can reach. Whereas the girl next door can tweet about her political preferences and her followers may comment against or in favour, Rihanna’s tweet supporting Palestinians received a barrage of replies and stirred up the social media sphere.

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After being up for only 8 minutes, Rihanna deleted her tweet and posted something more neutral.

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Under the PR microscope

From a PR perspective, the fact that celebrities are open about their political views can be either good or bad depending on their interests. The important thing is that they are aware of the reactions that their words may cause and weigh the consequences. For Rihanna, “taking” sides with Palestinians created a polarised reaction among both her fans and everyone else. Given her profile as an artist with million of albums sold worldwide and a large fan base, she found herself with the responsibility to keep her thoughts on the Israel- Palestine conflict to herself. Rihanna’s main interest was to share her personal thoughts whilst maintaining a good reputation as a thought leader and musician. Displaying her political views with the public resulted in a negative reaction and consequently, conflict. Thus, it was bad PR.

However, on the other side of the spectrum, that wasn’t the case for Joan Rivers, a controversial American comedian famous for having feuds with celebrities, politicians and entrepreneurs. When stopped outside an airport she went off at the paparazzi, defending Israel and saying New York would “wipe out” New Jersey if the conflict were happening in the US. Although Joan’s rant was quite outspoken compared to Rihanna’s, the effect was quite different. Joan Rivers was criticised by some and praised by others but that didn’t have an impact on her fanbase nor haters because… well, it’s Joan Rivers and that’s the kind of comments that have made her famous. See for yourself here – http://www.tmz.com/videos/0_1t3hcwj3

There have also been scenarios where celebrities have spoken out their political views and have succeeded. The once candidate to the Presidency of the US, Barack Obama, led a campaign that was supported by many of the big names in the music, TV and film industry. Oprah Winfrey took quite an active role in spreading her support for Obama. This was good PR for her as it portrayed herself as a strong influential woman in the media and within the American society.

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The social media effect

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have shortened the time and distance for anything to get spread worldwide within a couple of seconds. Social media can be a powerful tool to bring barriers down and connect celebrities to their fans; it represents an easy form to share exclusives about their work, comment on their latest news, engage their audience and leverage their popularity. In concept, it’s the ideal self-advertisement instrument! However this also means that anything a high-profile person publishes online will stay public; even if they delete it later.

These are just some tips to have in mind for celebrities do’s and don’ts. Share with us other issues you think that affects someone’s PR in the same way sharing political views does.

Guest appearance/blog post by Lilia Villela

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