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Lakshmi Narayan

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Celebrity Activism: Who ultimately benefits, the celebrity or the cause?

I am doing a dissertation on this topic and would like people to give an opinion on what they think of the question. I study PR so anything that relates back to media, how the publics attitude is swayed and what happens if the celebrity and the cause don't align, and does the cause push the celeb profile or the other way around. Case studies that I've looked at are- Bob Geldof-Live Aid, Joanna Lumley-Gurkhas , Sean Penn-Haiti and Angelina Jolie- any campaign she has been affiliated with.


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    Apr 14 2013: What about activists who become celebrities from their activism? I'm thinking of Jacqueline Novogratz.

    Last month or so Forbes magazine had an article on her and the Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture capital fund she started and is CEO of. She is also here on TED. She has a number of talks that might be worth looking in to.

    But this got me thinking... which is more productive: to be a celebrity and to "participate" in activist causes, or to create your own activist organization and become a celebrity from the activism you have done?
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      Apr 16 2013: That's interesting Casey. This reminds me of 'Kony 2012'. The person behind it Jason Russell became an overnight sensation after the youtube video went viral. Both him and his son gained such excessive media attention that I feel that the message got lost although I'm sure everyone knows Joseph Kony's name now but maybe they can't tell you what his crimes are. Russell became a 'celebrity' of sorts overnight and resulted in him having a breakdown from all the attention (which obviously reached the headlines). However I think both America and Africa have some sort of plan to capture Kony which shows that action is taking place but there has been no media follow up.

      So in answer to which is more productive, I couldn't say really, because there are pros and cons to this as with anything.
      I interviewed a PR professional yesterday for my dissertation and their thoughts on Celebrity Activism were positive because society is looking for someone to relate to and to give a more human side to all the brands that are being thrown at us everyday.
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        Apr 16 2013: "So in answer to which is more productive, I couldn't say really, because there are pros and cons to this as with anything." Good answer!

        And also, productivity could be determined by what the goal is. Being more productive could be to build up ones image, as you mentioned with the case of Lindsay Lohan because that is the way it appears, or with the case of Angelina Jolie on the issue of war zone rape, I honestly believe she is trying to push for support for the cause, but the media "dropped the ball" and is more interested in selling a story (in Jolie's case coverage from the media has been less or not productive at all).

        It doesn't seem to matter whether the celebrity is a seasoned veteran (Angelina Jolie) or new to stardom (Cameron Russell) and what they're intentions are, the media appears to want to focus on the celebrity for their (the media's) own benefit.

        That PR professional's views are interesting...
        How many more interviews from PR professionals are you going to do? I don't know how PR professionals do business... I guess some work within corporations, are there PR agencies? Are some PR professionals for-profit, are there some that do non-profit?
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          Apr 18 2013: I have interviewed one PR professional so far and have one more to go next week. I have interviewed someone who is director of a charity and I have interviewed a former BBC news editor and have two more journalists to interview. It's so good to get anyone else's opinion on this matter. Would you mind me using some of your ideas for my dissertation? I would obviously make sure that you are completely anonymous.

          In answer to you question about the PR industry, it's such a broad industry that a lot of people aren't that aware of because it's a relatively new profession that stems from marketing. There is corporate PR as you said which does all the daily PR stuff but also has to think of crisis and issue management. There are PR agencies, so for smaller companies or ones that don't have the budget to spend on in house PR outsource the work. These agencies have diversifies as well. There are agencies that are more strategic, ones that are creative and now more and more digital PR agencies that focus on social media communication etc. There are agencies that do non profit work too. I used to work in Fashion PR before I started my degree but now I want to go into consumer PR and then specialise in creative/experiential events.

          I like your thought about the 'media dropping the ball'. So even if the objective of the communications plan was to get the story out there through various media outlets, you can't control how the media might manipulate what you have given them for their viewership/readership benefits.
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        Apr 16 2013: In regards to Angelina Jolie, because she has been involved with multiple activist causes, it would be interesting to note whether or not she uses the same approach to building a support for a cause. It could bring into play the idea of a "learning curve" on the celebrities part. Did the celebrity use the same strategy for promoting a cause, did they try different strategies for different cause they have supported, and which was most effective at supporting the cause, and which were better at building image?
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        Apr 19 2013: "Would you mind me using some of your ideas for my dissertation?"

        Thank you for asking! :-) By all means Lakshmi, please do. The ideas I provided are for you to use however you see fit and are intended to help you and your research. ;-)

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