Does celebrity still sell? Part 1

A few months back, I attended a conference in the Philippines and one of the speakers presented on the power of word of mouth marketing. I am a big fan of that but the speaker went on to share how he believed that “celebrity endorsement does not work!”.

This is a question a lot of marketers ask. There are also many thoughts around this question.

In a New York Times article, the journalist wrote about “How nothing sells like celebrity

Using celebrities for promotion is hardly new. Film stars in the 1940s posed for cigarette companies, and Bob Hope pitched American Express in the late 1950s. Joe Namath slipped into Hanes pantyhose in the 1970s, and Bill Cosby jiggled for Jell-O for three decades. Sports icons like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods elevated the practice, often scoring more in endorsement and licensing dollars than from their actual sports earnings.

The speaker at the event showed a bus ad of Rain (a popular korean singer) endorsing a hair product and he went on to ask the audience, “how many of you believe that Rain actually use this product?” It is a valid question. I am not sure if I believed Rain does.

I asked my girlfriends (who are in marcomm and PR) what they think over coffee, and as usual, we all have very different views. The thoughts ranged from “depending on who the celebrity is” to “depending on whether the celebrity and the product are ‘believable’. My ex-colleague believes in celebrity slimming campaigns if she can see the before and after results. And interestingly enough, my best friend, Yen who is currently doing her Master degree in Marketing Communications also thinks that celebrity slimming endorsement works for her.

Jonathan, my other half thinks that celebrity endorsement works only for certain brands, mostly for awareness building, for example Maria Sharapova endorsing the the Canon Powershot cameras caught his attention. posted the top 10 celebrity gadget endorsements that works and created awareness but not necessary resulted in purchase.

For me, while I agree with the speaker at the conference about the lack of credibility of Rain using the cheap hair care product he endorses, I disagree that celebrity endorsement doesn’t work. I think it does. It depends on the objectives. Objectives of the campaign, the image and message the brand or product needs to communicate and what exactly does the celebrity has to do

My good friend, Walter Lim blogged about similar topic some while back – on VISA’s celebrity ad for the Olympic. Walter’s post was looking at effective ads and the celebrity they used. The ad was effective for VISA because it is a good ad or was it because it has Jackie Chan’s endorsement? Maybe both.

For me? It is about association. If i can associate a brand with the celebrity, it works for me. Kiera Knightley as the face for Chanel caught my attention and i could associate the product, brand and the celebrity together.

I am going to leave other thoughts to next post. Anyone believes celebrity endorsement is completely a waste of marketing/ PR dollars?


The Social Media Strategists – Do we need them?

Last week, I replied to a list of questions that Kevin posted on the topic of “would you hire a social media strategist?” . It’s an interesting question, – one that many of us in marketing, communications, PR, new media field are questioning.

I’ve given my replies to Kevin and looking forward to his next post on the compilation of thoughts from different people on the topic. (part 2 of his post was updated here) Meantime, I am gearing this post to a different direction. I am more interested to understand what the “social media strategists” themselves (and here, I mean, those who do it for living and not bloggers who blogs for fun or passion and charging people for attending event, calling themselves experts) think of their value to companies and the audiences.

Are they merely the connector between the clients/ companies they represent and the audiences? Will the role be a “stand-alone” or an integrated one , meaning this person will at the same time, manage other forms of communications ie: marketing/ traditional PR?

Are social media strategists in our midst explaining their roles clearly to us (the employers or even the mass audience). They are another layer of (for the lack of better word) “barrier” between companies and the audiences now, and if so, what does this layer do?

Steve Rubel presented an interesting post on his views about “3 internet careers that soon won’t exist” and one of them is a social media manager/ strategist.

Jeremiah Owyang, responded in his post “The need for the social media manager” . However, he also agreed that “social media skills will eventually become a normal bullet point in nearly every marketing resume…”

As far as I know, most of the social/ new media experts are sitting in the same offices and integrated into public relations agenciess that runs a digital department.

So, back to Kevin’s question, what qualification does a social media strategist need? I believe, to answer that, we need to ask, “what is the exact role of a social media strategist?” and from there, we can see the skill sets required.

To me, right now, this person should be a voice for the people/ audiences and at the same time, an evangelist for the companies/ agencies they represent. This person, shouldn’t be just an expert in technology or the “new” media. How do you actually know what’s NEW when you have no experience in the “old”?  For a start, i have a strong urge to say, a bullet point in the social media strategist resume should be “communciations skill” and being a strategist will also require him/ her to have some business sense. Otherwise, why would a company hire you if it’s not making a difference to the business?

Heh, i can see my social media strategist friends sending me hate mails soon. 🙂



PR and Social Media in Asia

I stumbled upon this wiki on social media when I was doing random surfing this morning about PR in Asia. It is really quite interesting and I believed it is put together by some university students.

I’ve been invited to a couple of social media events/ gatherings and the discussion topics have always been focused on which tools/ networks/ channels/ methods are best to reach out to the audiences. I realised there is always a tendency to generalise too much and assume that what works in US will work in Asia when we discuss marketing communications, public relations and social media.

The last couple of months, I’ve been traveling to different parts of Asia and spending time, trying to understand the different markets that I am managing in Asia Pacific region. It’s interesting to note how diverse and unique each Asian market is when it comes to managing PR/ communications in each country. It is even tougher to come up with a regional campaign that works across several Asia countries. When we talk about Web 2.0, PR, communications in general, at times we forget that there is the cultural element. Communications in an emerging market versus communications in Latin America will obviously be very different. How consumers in different market consume information is also very different and that should affect the way we plan our communications campaigns. As much as we have all heard that in the Web 2.0 world, it is all about the people, the online communities gathering together, sharing information, contributing to conversations, everything is becoming  more globalised. However, as I’ve observed and agreed with the students who wrote in the wiki, i think we’ve missed several points.

So obviously despite the market’s globalization process, there are differences between countries …because of cultural factors…which are partly responsible for the marketing environment in that market. Asia is a region with many layers: different languages, different cultures, and different technology preferences….all in a region filled with different countries, laws, etc. It does pose a tough challenge, not only for inter but also for Intra-national communication.

These observations are quite accurate. There are a lot of so called “social media experts” out there who sometimes called me up and said, “hey, we can offer you help on regional campaigns using social media….”

My immediate thought is, do you really know how people in India consume information? Have you stepped into Bangalore and understand the language difference? Do you understand the technological great divide between different cities in India or do you know what’s really big in Vietnam right now? Do you know that, web/ PC penetration is so much lower than mobile phone penetration in many Asia countries? So, it makes me wonder at times how companies and agencies hire their “experts” who hardly step out of their own country and hardly understand communciations on the web, let alone the 2.0 or the ability to reach/ engage consumers out there in Asia. Sure, some of us may understand how the web2.0 and how PR works (in general) but to put together some really successful campaigns, it takes much, much, much more than that.

In HK for instance, there are three primary communities in Hong Kong. The expatriates, who favor English, the local Chinese whose first language is Cantonese and the increasing numbers of mainland Chinese immigrants who use Mandarin. These differences are important to businesses as based on their target audience; their medium of advertisement has to change.

While we raved and make a huge fuss about Facebook, nobody really bothers about it in countries in Asia. In China, Korea and Japan and other emerging markets, there are some really big and powerful social networks that are locally relevant to the people.

When it comes to PR, it doesn’t really matter if Techcrunch or New York Times are raving about a certain product or website, if i’s not locally relevant to ie: Thailand or Vietnam, (that are not even english speaking markets) or big markets like Korea, India and China, honestly, the key media there don’t really care.

I have always hoped to find more great bloggers, influencers and thought leaders in Asia who cover topics on social media and communications, especially those who have not only in-country knowledge but cross-cultural, cross countries expertise. If you are one of them, please do drop me a note. We’ve heard so much from the US and UK folks, I think it is time to hear from Asia’s point of view on the topics of Social Media and new media. (honestly, it’s really not about knowing how to set up a second life account and far more than using facebook to set up an event invite).

Are we really influencing our audiences?

My stack of new books from had arrived! I am now flipping through Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae and Brian Solis & Geoff Livingston’s Now is Gone.

Meatball Sundae

Both have some really interesting points about new media and new media marketing. Since I have not finished reading them, I shall reserve any comments for now. Both are definitely worth reading!Recently, I’ve observed that some PR folks have decided to completely ignore / not get involved with the new media, leaving them in the hands of the community managers. I am not saying that’s right or wrong, I am just considering what it means for us, as PR professionals, to only care about getting what our clients or companies want us to say to our “target media”. Do we, at some point consider what our CONSUMERS are thinking, saying, commenting, wanting, needing from our company?

A recent chat with a PR friend made me ponder more as she pointed out that, “UH! It’s so hard to CONTROL bloggers, sometimes, they get their facts all wrong and refused to hear us out..”

Another girlfriend commented, “Why pre-brief bloggers? Why even bother talking to XX business magazine? I just want to get this story out in 3 key dailies and i get my REACH! It’s just too much effort and trouble to talk to XX business magazine and YY trade media because their reach is so much lesser…” 

There are some truths in each comment but something tells me, we are moving backward rather than forward. I realised what happened to many PR people. We are extremely busy folks, sometimes we get so bogged down by work, we become very reactive and we just keep on doing doing doing the same things, hoping for different results. We forget about exploration, learning new tools, new communications strategies as we move on into a new technological era.

At times, we are so narrow-minded. We are given a set of “key communications statements” from our clients or our corporate communciations department and we follow them so strictly, we forgot that our consumers and the media are not stupid to believe a  set of statements that doesn’t make any sense to anyone else but us.

I realised I am trying to make several points here. I guess, what I am trying to think through is, as much as I believe and blogged quite extensively about how PR folks should always go back to basic and get our messaging/ foundation right before we move on to new media. On the other hand, there is frustration with PR people who are too afraid to move on and get too engrossed in trying to make sure that they have coverage in the 1 or 2 newspapers (that might have readership of 200,000) but is that enough?

Some XX company might have a full page coverage in The Sunday Times (Singapore’s most-read broadsheet) last week but I was on the plane, my boyfriend was sick and slept through the day and my brothers were out and not touched the papers. So, even though we might be the target audience of that XX company, we missed it.

So, explain to me… how is the excuse of targeting only 3 key media every time we have news announcements (because they have the most reach) ensure that most, if not all our target audience (consumers) read about our announcements? How is that making an influence? How is that moving the needle, making an impact for the business you are in?

My good friend and a fantastic blogger, Melvin Yuan recently stated in his blog post…

In the same way, PR professionals could never master the craft of Influence because our tools for the task were ineffective (think press releases, articles and events) and our measurement was flawed (think size of news coverage and the ad-dollar equivalent). Both never did translate to direct impact and measurable results that businesses really need.

But today we have the right tools (think blogs, micro-sites, e-mails, search engines etc.), the right knowledge (in search, digital storytelling and social media), and better ways to measure business (not communication) results (think click-throughs, readership and online decisions).

We have what it takes to communicate directly, track and measure results effectively, making Influence as much a science as it is an art.

My starting point @ Yahoo!

A friend asked me, “You must be feeling really sh**ty about your new job now…all those uncertainties and distractions… do you regret your decision to move to the new place?”


I have been avoiding speculations or engage in any form of discussions about some topics lately…


I also didn’t want to turn this blog into a “publicity channel” for whatever I am doing at work. I still would like to keep this blog as a platform for explorations on PR, new media, technology as well as my favourite topic – books!


However, I did think about my friend’s question and here’re my thoughts…. Hell no! No regrets at all. Although I admit, there are days that are tougher, what is really special about my new job is, people are extremely passionate about what they are doing at Yahoo! It is a very different experience. I had my fair share of bad clients and bad colleagues in the past jobs who made going to work feels like the end of the world.


Right now, I am busy. This is easily one of the busiest jobs I ever had but I am loving it! In my very short time (this is my 6th week) with the company, I can’t help but noticed a few things about the place – what I was told before I joined the company was true… it has a great culture. Beside the great view at my work desk (next to the full-length glass window, on the 37th floor of Suntec City Tower), I love working with alot of truly great, talented and extremely cool people.


Sure, it is sad to read some negative news coverage but what I find encouraging is, everyone works together and despite tough times, we are having fun and we work hard to achieve what we set out to do.


And this week, we see some great results as Yahoo! made various announcements at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. One of which is the new Yahoo! oneConnect (read more on TechCrunch) and read what many others wrote.. .


A few of the innovative features of oneConnect are its Pulse feature, which lets users see what their friends are up to, including their status, profile updates and recommendations based on their social network pages, and Status, which lets users see their contacts by their most recent status updates on social networks, as well as update their own status on their social networks and automatically broadcast it to their friends” – RCR WirelessNews


Yahoo continues firing on all cylinders in the mobile area despite the looming presence of Microsoft‘s aggressive moves to acquire the Web giant.” – InternetNews

“oneConnect is a very promising and I’m not surprised Yahoo is moving ahead,” Gartner analyst Mike McGuire told “Yahoo can’t be paralyzed by what Microsoft says it wants to do — it has these developments and deals in place and as [CEO] Jerry Yang has said to his employees, they have to focus on what they need to work on.”

“Has Yahoo beaten Google to the punch?” – TechWorld


“OneConnect is part of a strategy to open up Yahoo services to work side by side with those of rival services, thereby making itself a more relevant starting point for users seeking to find what’s going on the web.” ZDNet UK

On a side note, the coming Monday is my 30th birthday. To me, it is a brand new chapter of life – a new starting point to more great things. I have a lot of goals set for the next 5 years and I have been very blessed. I am surrounded by great friends, colleagues and family who have been so awfully wonderful. Thank you to all those who sent me all the lovely birthday wishes, gifts and stuff!



The”P” in PR

Jon and I always joked about how if we get married, my name will be changed to Priscilla Roberts (his surname), so my initials will be “PR”! Perfect for me, since I am in public relations. (if you don’t get the joke, forget it).

Anyway, that silly joke came to mind as I was reading one of Jeremy Pepper’s old blog posts on “what does the P in PR stands for?” (I’ve been spending some time going through Jeremy’s blog posts and they are really quite brilliant.). PR can mean many things to many different people.
Jeremy wrote,

…. PR used to stand for public relations. Not press relations, but public relations…

I totally agree. It has been argued about, debated on and the conclusion is that PR needs to focus and put the real “P” (for public) back to the highly misunderstood industry of public relations, (especially in this new Web 2.0 and social media age).

There are alot of definitions of PR, by academics and experts in the industry. Generally, the idea of PR lies in the following:-

Public relations is the management of relationships between an organization and its publics – groups on whom it depends for its success. An organization’s publics may include employees, shareholders, government regulators, customers, financial analysts, pressure groups, and industry associations. Depending on the field in which it operates, there will be others. A school board will have parents, students and taxpayers. A food producer may have farmers, marketing boards, dieticians and consumer associations. A registered charity will have donors and volunteers…

(source: PRCA)

And of course, the mass media is part of the publics that organisations and PR people aim to reach out to, but did you notice the many other “publics” listed in the above? PR has been evolving and I have realised that the definitions can even vary in different countries but it definitely goes beyond “how to get a coverage in XX publication..”

Melvin Yuan, an independent PR and new media consultant commented in one of my earlier post about how many PR folks are thinking press relations rather than public relations.

….Ask any consultant to list his/her top five tags for PR and you’ll know the level of his thinking.

If “media relations” and “pitching stories” are in that list, you’ll know what’s going to rattle his nerves…

I have several thoughts as I was writing this post. One of them was attempting to define the “P” in PR and as I was researching on what had been discussed, I came across this great article, “Media coverage: forget about the quantity- measure the quality,” by Jennifer McClure, summarising what I had in mind.

PR is not meant to be about creating static messages in a vacuum, and it is not synonymous with media relations, but for too long this seems to have been the assumption – not only by clients and management, but even by many in the PR industry.

Public relations is about forming and nurturing relationships with the public. We all need to remind ourselves of this from time to time. If, instead of spending time creating and communicating static messages and trying to make sure that nothing negative is ever said about our organizations, PR can re-focus its efforts on creating relationships…

I start to fear and cringe, whenever I speak with communications/ PR or marketing people who asked me, “oh, so can you get us some coverage in Her World magazine?” Nothing wrong with Her World magazine (a very popular female mag in Singapore) but in today’s Web2.0 world and the age of social media, PR folks should take the opportunities to work towards achieving not a front-page press coverage but to start a real dialogue with the key audiences (which includes the “publics” mentioned above) to alter perceptions, to create awareness, to gather feedbacks (and the list goes on, depending on what you aim to achieve). Such are statements that many have spoken and written about but, honestly, how many PR people are actually practising them? How many actually GET IT or attempt to GET IT?

Two-way dialogue can occur without a front page or any media coverage. Infact, let’s put it another way, two-way dialogue SHOULD occur ON TOP of the front page coverage – that’s the job of PR now and in the near future. Most decent PR folks know all about traditional media pitching, the challenge is to move on and put PR back to the scope it is meant to cover.

Although I am in PR, I am also a blogger – possibly part of the “publics” that some organisations are targeting. I am also the consumer who buy the various media’s publications and many different brand of products. I am also the unhappy customer who had a bad perception of that hotel with such bad service, I am dying to tell the world not to go to that hotel.

I guess, what I am trying to say here is, at the end of the day, we know that PR is evolving, especially in this exciting time where we see shifts in the industry, the key thing is to start practising it, start to put the real “P” (repeat: Public) back in PR and learn to GET IT! We are sick of hearing everyone telling us, “PR just don’t get it”.

More reference articles on elated topic:-

What is PR? by Heather Yaxley (another updated post – 12 Dec 2007 – here )

PR Measurement: Does media coverage alone impact business outcomes?

What is PR? by Public Relations Institute of Australia