by Mark Walsh, Account Executive


For generations celebrities, sport stars and popstars have played a role in influencing the way people dress, the type of haircut to have, the latest accessory to own etc. Going back to the days of Elvis and the Beatles, people and in particular teenagers, have modelled their own image on the latest trends that were usually set by a celebrity. This didn’t go ignored and nowadays we see celebrities promoting all sorts of items. The power of celebrities to influence us and to what extent it actually works is an important question that PR Professionals need to consider today. It does seem that if a PR professional can secure a well known public figure to act as an influencer for a client then it is a valuable opportunity.  Or is it?  

Recently, it was revealed that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo “generated $500 (€450) million in value for Nike from his social media properties in 2016”. Ronaldo, who has 120 million followers on Facebook, 50 million followers on Twitter and 92 million on Instagram, posted a picture on Instagram after the Euro 2016 Final that is said to have been worth $5.8 (€5.2) million to Nike alone. Obviously Nike must believe that Ronaldo is very influential and combined with the fact that he is able to reach a huge number of people is worth every penny of investment. 

Here in Ireland, research done last year showed that Conor McGregor and Pippa O’Connor were the most influential Irish social media personalities. The research also found that 6 in 10 Irish people would buy a product recommended by a social media personality. While we can’t take this at face value it does pose the interesting question of just how much influence an influencer has.

Choosing the right influencer

The first question that PR professionals need to consider is will this person be the right fit for my client and are they value for money. If it looks like that this celebrity was only chosen for their social media reach / popularity and not because they are a match for the client then their influence will be limited. Of course, you need to consider who exactly the client is trying to reach and determine what is the most effective way to reach them. Social media is one option but print or broadcast media can work very well too depending who the target audience is.

 Is it worth it?

Recruiting an influencer can also go horribly wrong for everyone involved. It was recently revealed that the cancelled Fyre Festival (who could provide enough material for a blog post on crises management) gave “hundreds of models and online personalities, such as reality star Kendall Jenner and model Emily Ratajkowski ... free flights, accommodation and tickets in exchange for promoting the event to fans”. In this case, not only were the influencers involved in promoting a doomed festival (see here for the full incredible details) but they also didn’t abide by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules requiring that “influencers” who share promotional materials to “clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands”.

This case also highlights the high cost often involved in order to get an influencer to promote a brand. It goes without saying that freebies are all part of the package.

 Decision Time

Has it reached the point now where people are so use to seeing a celebrity promoting a brand that we have all become immune to it? Does this mean that we are no longer influenced by the influencer? When stars of the past were creating fashion trends in the 1950 and 1960s it could be argued that it seemed (to a certain degree) to be more organic and that the celebrities dressed/promoted what they did because they genuinely liked it. Is it possible for celebrities to still influence us and effectively promote a brand today when they are being paid to do so and getting freebies from the brand? There is no doubt that the reach that certain celebrities have nowadays with social media is huge and that the right person saying or tweeting the right thing can be very valuable to a brand. Like most aspects of PR, it really depends on what is being promoted, choosing the right influencer and using the correct medium.

Whether an influencer is right or not for your client is a question that PR professionals all need to be asking themselves.