PR consultant Julia Kendrick takes a look at tried and tested tactics of celebrity endorsement and gives her top tips on how to effectively harness 'star power' to build your clinic brand
When it comes to celebrities, more often than not they are used by the mainstream media to demonstrate the cartoonish, exaggerated or ghoulish effects of bad surgery. Yet increasingly, the UK aesthetic industry is using good quality celebrity endorsement, with the likes of Sharon Stone for Galderma and Karen Brady for HydraFacial. But is celebrity endorsement only achievable for big brands, or in trendy clinic hotspots like LA or Harley Street? No – in fact, celebrity marketing is well within your grasp and this article will prepare you for if and when the lightning strikes!
Nowadays, a great deal of products we use are associated with a celebrity endorsement or ‘brand ambassador’. The critical premise here is to make consumers feel that they can emulate the celebrity lifestyle by buying the fragrance, the clothes, or the food: we all want a little bit of that A-List feel in our own lives. By coupling the right celebrity face with your clinic and brand, you can achieve an instantaneous business boost, outshine your competition and gain visibility amongst a much larger network of potential audiences than through your own marketing alone.
The ideal scenario is that a local or, even national, celebrity just happens to walk through your clinic door – but this is only relatively likely if you are in Harley Street or certain London hotspots. The vast majority of clinic celebrity endorsements arise through good old-fashioned word-of-mouth, so start by reaching out to your key suppliers, business partners and of course your patients to see who they might have connections with. Be subtle in your approach – as any new patient recommendations should always be welcome, not just celebrities – but if you mention you are looking for more ways to showcase the work you do and potentially work with some well-known faces, this is a good place to start.
Once a celebrity crosses your threshold, don’t automatically assume that any publicity is good publicity. The success of a celebrity endorsement rests entirely on whether they align with, and appeal to, your existing patient base. If there is a mismatch, the endorsement will not deliver the business benefits and even worse, it could damage your reputation. You need to protect your brand and carefully consider:
So you’ve found a celebrity who is a good fit, but what next? The answer is to treat them like a normal patient. Give them the same level of care and excellence as you would for any other patient; build up the relationship and establish a rapport before asking them for anything. Remember, as with many aesthetic patients they may be reticent even to admit publically that they have had cosmetic procedures – so the approach here must be softly, softly. It can sometimes take years before a celebrity will be comfortable acting as an ambassador, so judge carefully when to approach them. Ideally, their great experiences as a patient may prompt them to approach you proactively and offer their testimonial or endorsement – so much so, the better.
When it comes to payment, if the celebrity is a new introduction there will usually be an expectation to have their treatment for free, in return for promoting you and your services through a number of means. Make sure you nail this down in writing so that expectations are clear on both sides. If a key supplier or manufacturer has connected you to the celebrity, ask them to cover the cost of the product for you, again, with the clear understanding of being credited in subsequent publicity.
You need to be crystal clear what you would like your celebrity to do and how you will use the information. You may just wish to publically confirm that they are one of your patients, or get them to post on social media, or give their image and testimonial for your clinic marketing and website. The key is to be clear and take their lead on what they are comfortable with, and above all, NEVER do anything without their expressed, written permission lest you get a nasty lawsuit. Celebrities will usually have their own agent or PR team who will work with you to develop a contract and legal consent form that outlines and agrees the scope of activities. Make sure it clearly stipulates how and where any text, images or videos may be used in this country (and beyond, if online), ownership, copyright, usage rights and the period of use and get a signed copy from all parties. The celebrity must also understand they can withdraw their consent at any time. There is no cast-iron rule about whether or not you should expect to pay a celebrity for endorsing you – ideally they should offer to do this for free (as otherwise the association lacks credibility and value) but don’t make assumptions: test the water either directly or through their PR/management team.
There’s no point getting an upsurge in patient enquiries on the back of celebrity work if you can’t capture these leads. Brief your team on when celebrity activities are taking place, so they can plan accordingly and ensure the phones are manned. If in doubt, outsource to a reputable call handling service such as Aesthetic Response, who are the only full enquiry management service for aesthetics, or MyRuby who are an appointment bookings service, who can help cover you during times of high call volumes and ensure none of those valuable leads slip through the net. Similarly, make sure you take note of your current patient enquiry levels, conversions, website analytics and social media followings so you can benchmark any changes as a result of the endorsement.
You need to get the maximum mileage out of your celebrity endorsement in order to ramp up your visibility and create opportunities with the local and national media. Prepare in advance so you don’t get overwhelmed at the time, and think about the following:
For me, the most important thing is to ensure the celebrity is a good fit for your brand and clinic patient base. Without this alignment, you won’t get a lovely halo effect, so much as an oppressive shadow, so remember – don’t get starstruck, make sure they’re right for you and then go for it!