A Celebrity And Brand Winning Formula: Turning Transactions Into Partnerships – Forbes

To be blunt, deals that are transactional in nature often fail because each side is so focused on what is in their best interest. They lose sight on the real opportunity at hand – to create a compelling partnership that emotionally connects each party to their audience and ultimately grows the relationship. But let’s not be short-sighted. Some deals are meant to be short-lived and one-off in nature. We are not talking about those deals here. At the base level, each contract is just a business transaction, but when it’s done well, a deal can benefit each side, and turn into a true partnership.

Here are some tips on what a brand can do to position itself for long-term partnership success:

Give your talent a voice (and early!). As brand marketers, we often think we have all the answers to create the perfect campaign. It’s critical to remember throughout the process that the influencer or celebrity was hired for a reason. The brand was interested in capitalizing on their fame, audience and/or personality traits that will add to the program. Influencers best understand their audience – what makes them laugh, cry, engage or even unfollow.

Involve talent in the creative process as early as possible. Let them share their ideas with the creative department, social teams and even brand publicists. Investigate as much as possible – what words, tone and themes work for them? Not all, but some talent will even want to attend the pre-production meeting before content capture takes place. Of course the brand messaging is core to a program and brand marketers should lead the process, but don’t force-fit language or content that doesn’t match your influencer’s style or personality. Remember, you hired them for who they are.

Find common ground. Take time to talk to your talent and their management teams to learn what other brands they’re connected to, what projects are in the works and what the long-term business goals are. Similarly, set aside time to share the brand’s vision and business goals for the partnership. All of this information can be invaluable when trying to build a relationship and you may be surprised by how you can help one another make connections and accomplish goals.

All of this sounds straightforward and simplistic, but it happens less than you think. I have always found it interesting to ask the talent and their team what other brand/celebrity programs they have liked and why. The more both sides can understand what appeals to the other party, and especially their POV on brand-celebrity partnerships, the better chance of a win-win. Every conversation you have with talent does not need to be centered around your endorsement. I often recommend chemistry meetings involving the brand, agencies, talent and management to get to know each other and to find common ground before the ink on the contract is even dry.

Dell and its Social Good Advocate, Adrian Grenier, collect old tech via Uber for responsible recycling through Goodwill with the Dell Reconnect program in support of America Recycles Day. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Dell)

Tap into their passions. Learn what causes and personal hobbies they support when they’re off the clock. Brands can contribute and feed these passions and causes in more ways than one. Money is the obvious contribution but it doesn’t always make sense. Awareness, which can be supported by brand partners through ad dollars and social media sometimes makes more sense. Actor turned environmentalist Adrian Grenier is passionate about eliminating plastic waste and partnered with Dell as their first Social Good Advocate to “to promote healthier, more sustainable choices and actions through digital storytelling and advocacy.” Dell successfully found a celebrity and cause that they can get behind and support; and in doing so, convinced a brand-averse celebrity to jump in with two feet. It’s also worth considering whether these passions and causes can be integrated into the creative, content or media day.

These supportive gestures can go a long way in building a meaningful relationship that extends beyond just the business transaction. I recall a soccer goal and ball brought to a production set so the actor, a soccer fanatic, could play during downtime. He loved it. It made the long shoot much easier and helped to drive a personal connection between the parties.

Less is often more. Influencer success is predicated on the fact that their followers feel compelled to share the content with others, organically spreading messages and sentiment to each of their own micro networks. Resist the urge to overly commercialize the campaign every time. Let the audience create an emotional connection. If they do, it usually means more love for the campaign and the brand in the end. It’s why Super Bowl advertising works. Yes, 100 million people are watching it but that’s not why it is shared. It’s shared when there is an emotional connect, (hint: storytelling, humor, cause/purpose) not for the product shot at the end of the spot.

Make it easy. Your influencer is likely busy with any number of outside obligations. Scheduling can be a challenge. Consider bringing production shoots or events to your influencer as it shows that you value their involvement and are committed to building a partnership that works for both sides. And likewise, finding talent that are nimble and willing to work within the brand’s parameters can help with the overall success of the partnership. Figure this out together – my team just finished two content shoots in London and Taipei, where we created a set in the same hotel that the actor was staying at for his movie premiere promotion. This doesn’t have to happen every time. Geography, union, extras, time allotment and many other factors can determine location. We’re simply saying, look to make it easy for you and them.