media update’s Nakedi Phala discusses four aspects that PR professionals need to consider when creating a communications strategy for public figure management.

Whether you’re tasked with creating a PR strategy for a famous musician, prominent politician or just a reputable public figure, all three will require some sort of communication strategy. When directly in the public’s eye, it does not matter if you’re an entertainer or fighting for the people — every kind of public figure needs a plan before they can take off into the public space.

There are a number of things to consider when you’re a PR professional for a public figure. This includes the individual’s behaviour, their personal lives and what makes them remain a public figure.

These are the aspects that not only make them unique and popular individuals but also what can be focused on to improve and build their reputation — as well as that of their brand.

With that in mind, it’s time to dive deep into four points that will help PR pros create a comprehensive public figure client strategy:

1. Advise them on their personal lives

Since an individual is a brand themselves, it’s ideal for PR professionals to advise clients on how to live and lead their personal lives. Note that it's best to suggest and not to subscribe.

The reason why you would want to consider looking into this part of their lives is because the public today does not separate the private from the public. As such, the figure would need to be in tip-top shape in both areas of his or her life.

Let’s suppose that your client is a famous soccer player who happens to have been caught drinking while driving. Even though the figure was drinking outside of work hours, he or she will most likely still make it to the front page of the latest news feed. This kind of news will affect their reputation and, subsequently, their work.

As a PR pro, you’re not really in control of everything that happens, but your advice can go a long way. Be prepared to give them professional help and advice from the get-go to avoid any future mishaps.

Amongst other things, a written statement of apology to affected parties goes a long way; this can be sent to the general public, employees of the public figure or anyone who is professionally associated and negatively impacted by the occurrence.

2. Help them to select the right brands to associate with

It is vital to consider certain aspects about a brand before signing up your client as its representative. This includes the brand’s respectives reputation and social perception, as these will directly affect your client through association.

An endorsement or financial sponsorship sounds lucrative and could be a ticket to open doors for your client but, before that, do some background checks on the brand anyway. This includes contractual terms, as well as other entities who are associates, sponsors or partners.

Let’s say that our client is proudly driven by a particular car brand and they have stated in their fine print that only they can be the vehicle sponsor, however, a second vehicle brand also wants to sponsor the same individual. The initial vehicle sponsor may be unhappy with your client also engaging with another, competitor’s brand. So, before acquiring endorsements, read first their requirements and check with your current ones to avoid finding yourself in legal disputes.

3. Educate them on freedom of speech

While everyone has the freedom of speech, every public figure knows that their actions and choices will be judged by the public. This is on what they say, what they wear, how they act and what they stand for. They are role models by default and this is why it is important that they are aware of how they present themselves. Their choices will have a direct impact on their following and support.

According to the South African Constitution, everyone has a right to freedom of expression. However this comes with limited rights, which does not cover the pursuit of propaganda that leads to war, condoning of violence, fueling of hatred on gender, race and religion.

Taking this into account, there are limitations that every individual should be aware of when it comes to knowing what they can and can’t say. This is vital to remember, especially when a public figure is constantly being watched by the public. Even a statement made in their personal capacity will be studied and scrutinised.

Let’s take a look at an article published in Times LIVE regarding Bianca Schoombee, a model who was optimistic making it in the Miss South Africa pageant. Twitter users found Tweets by Schoombee that came across as offensive and racist. Her image was irreversibly tainted because of this and her chances of taking part in the pageant went down the drain.

It’s vital for individuals to be educated by their PR pros on the things that they can say and things they cannot, because no matter how good of a public expert you are, there are some things that you can’t put a spin on.

4. Be a helpful PR team

A PR team needs to be ready and geared to assist the individual, especially at big events.

For example, at a press briefing one of the team members needs to be at the venue before the press briefing to check the finer details beforehand, such as the media list of some who might have an agenda against the individual. This is so that potential conflicts can be handled and avoided discreetly.

Help your client to answer tricky questions from the media during a presser to avoid them saying things that could hinder their reputation.

It would be wise to ensure that the team has reviewed and proofread the figure’s statement to make sure that it is error-free. No one wants to be up-stage and blubbering nonsensically. Remember former president Jacob Zuma’s numerical blunder? No repeats needed!

What other ways do you think that PR pros can help public figures avoid bad PR? Let us know in the comments section below.

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