Return to the Blog Homepage
The Power of Celebrity in Healthcare Communications

The Power of Celebrity in Healthcare Communications

July 12, 2017 0 Comments

“Would you trust Tom Selleck with your life savings?” The New York Times asked this question last month when examining the use of celebrity spokespeople, like Selleck and Alex Trebek, to promote products to retirees. The article describes efforts to identify trusted, credible, and peer-like voices to appeal to an older generation. “After all,” it notes, “when the discussion is life insurance, reverse mortgages or pharmaceuticals, the stakes are higher, the consequences of an imprudent choice greater.”

The pharma world is keenly aware of the potential power of celebrities—and the stakes. From Magic to Couric to Jolie, the impact of a health disclosure can be influential and far-reaching, heightening awareness and even prompting consumer action. Over the years, marketers have leveraged this “halo effect” through celebrity partnerships across PR and advertising campaigns (sometimes to uncommon ends!). However, some have also faced criticism at times for what have been seen as ill-suited or controversial choices of partners. So, while there is power in celebrity voices, it is critical to determine whether a celebrity spokesperson is the right strategic approach—and fit—for a given campaign or initiative.

Before recommending a celebrity spokesperson to our clients, we ask ourselves:

  • Do they reach the target audience? Some surveys have suggested celebrities are more influential among younger groups, but an apt pairing can overcome “back-in-my-day” skepticism and enhance a program’s messaging. Metrics like celebrity influence rankings can help evaluate marketability among various demographics and pinpoint qualities attributed to a personality.
  • Does their story resonate? It’s important for celebrity brand ambassadors to share genuine stories. We look for people who are relatable and can help others see success in a new way.
  • Can they help shed light? With an estimated 30 million people in the United States living with rare diseases, a notable voice could represent much-needed recognition for a small patient community. Also, for conditions that may have stigmas attached to them, a spokesperson could provide a normalizing force.
  • What’s their online presence like? Companies are increasingly turning to social media to connect with tech-savvy (or semi-tech-savvy) patients. Depending on your audience, your brand’s existing social media properties, and your measurement goals, a celebrity digital boost may be an important asset.
  • Are there any red flags? We can all name examples of brand ambassadorships that have gone terribly wrong—and we can also name more than a few of them that could have been prevented with some forethought. Thorough traditional and social media audits, exploratory interviews, and reliable third-parties can assist in preventing unknowns when evaluating an opportunity.
  • Most importantly, what’s the value added? At the end of the day, our goal is to help patients live well. And so our task is to review all of the factors on hand—reputation, relatability, reach, message, and more—and determine whether a celebrity is the best way to communicate with a specific group about their personal health journeys. Some campaigns can speak for themselves, if you let them. Knowing when a spokesperson amplifies and when they distract is the key.

Asking these questions allows us to determine if we should use a celebrity spokesperson and, when we do, to be sure we use the right messengers to reach the right patients.

To learn more about CCA and how we support our clients, visit

Previous postMed-Sci Matters by Dr. Dave Next postThe Week That Was: Crises in Communications

No comments have been posted yet.

Share Your Comment

The comments are closed.