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Action, Interaction and Reaction from the Ritz team

The opposite of halo

Posted: May 19, 2011 - 10:56 PM ET - by Elisabeth

If we’re judged by the company we keep, we’re proud to have our colleague Abbe Kalina sharing her thoughts on endorsements on AIRtime this week.

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Our society is ultra focused on celebrities. We look to them for direction on just about everything, from water to clothing and cars, to tell us what we need and shouldn’t live without.

Who hasn’t bought shoes that LeBron James says are great for shooting hoops or skin care products because they promise to make us look every bit as fresh as Katy Perry?

Advertisers count on this popularity and leverage it to sell products. The theory goes that there is a halo effect and that the positive thoughts and feelings that consumers have towards a celebrity will be transferred to the product they are backing.

This is great for celebrities. They typically get paid handsomely, and their participation serves as a means to keep them relevant and in the public eye. However, not all endorsements are created equally.

We’re all too familiar with the stories of celebrities who have “let down” a brand from Tiger Woods embarrassment of Nike to Cybil Shepherd’s admission that she didn’t eat meat as a spokesperson for The Beef Industry Council. Yet it’s interesting to note the opposite of the halo effect: pairing a popular celebrity with the wrong product endorsement can result in a decline in their star power.

Recently, a study profiled in The Harvard Business Review and conducted at the Florida Institute of Technology shows that for currently popular celebrities, being affiliated with a poorly perceived brand can negatively impact how attractive and trustworthy their adoring fans believe them to be.  And in their line of work, that’s major.

It’s a useful lesson for the reality stars and wanna-be influencers of tomorrow: we are judged by the company we keep. In regular life, we may have an opportunity to prove ourselves beyond associations and have the negative connotations from a poor association fall away. This may be the only luxury not afforded to celebrities.

In order to bounce back from a poor endorsement deal, even – perhaps especially – “celebrities” with less than world-class athleticism or movie star magnetism will have to work twice as hard to overcome any negative associations. People may not get to know them as a person, and the negative associations just end up getting wrapped into their public persona, which could possibly stay with them for the remainder of their careers.

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Long live local news

Posted: December 24, 2010 - 12:52 PM ET - by Ritz

This week we give AIRtime to colleague Carrie Sessine.

Long live local news

I’ve always loved local news … the daily newspaper that was delivered in the afternoon (as it was then), the weekly community paper (that I delivered for 2¢ a paper) and the broadcast news at 5. By reading and paying attention to the news I felt part of the community and in the know about what was happening in the world.

But for some time I’ve wondered about the value of local news both as a consumer and a public relations professional. Typically, the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcasts are “old news” with the availability of “Breaking News” alerts from newspapers; updates through Facebook and Twitter; and full, updated news stories placed on websites 24/7. So, how many people are really watching the TV news? Do people read the paper cover-to-cover anymore? Who reads other sections of a newspaper website in addition to the online article they accessed?

Two recent items made me pause to re-evaluate the value of local news. The first was a survey by Hearst Television Inc. which found that local TV news serves as a major part of people’s daily routine. This I found notable given all the other “news getting” tools available to viewers/readers. The second was a white paper titled, “Rethinking Public Media”.

Local news outlets, like Patch.com and others, provide value beyond simply reporting the news; these outlets help build and strengthen the communities they serve. While neighbors check out news and pictures of the high school’s Nutcracker performance or the activities by the Chamber of Commerce, they also learn about the lighting of the National Christmas tree and what the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” means to current and veteran service members.

Looking at this through the public relations lens, local news provides opportunities, and I don’t mean advertising. For a small, medium or large-sized business in a community, these local outlets offer heightened awareness of a person, product or service and position the company as a resource – all through a credible, trusted news outlet. For example, the director of a local, well-known art center is writing a weekly column about art benefits and activities for her online community outlet; this enhances the position of her business and directly reaches potential new students.

As I look to 2011 and opportunities for clients, outreach to engage local media is a must-do item.

… And tonight, like many of you, I will be checking the news – likely TV – to watch Santa’s path for my kiddos … unless my children have downloaded an app for that on my iPhone by then … Merry Christmas!

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