Having a celebrity endorse your product is a coveted coup for any business. But for artists, it seems like frustrating, unlikely territory. It’s not easy, but it is possible if you know the right way to go about it. Here’s my step-by-step, plug-and-play method:
1. Set Your Expectations
It’s much easier to get in touch with business and life guru Marie Forleo than it is the hip hop queen Beyonce. You can hit a big audience by going for someone famous in their arena, rather than a household name. While you can go for Martha Stewart’s seal of approval, it might be more effective to try for your town’s mayor.
2. Pick Well
If James Franco were to recommend the adorable art of Coco Gigi, his fans would be really confused. So he’s not going to do it. Celebrities have their own brands to maintain, so you have to be conscious of who their fans are and what type of persona they’ve created. Does your art really fit into that brand? If so, it’s a great opportunity. But if not, you should move on no matter how much you like that particular celebrity.
3. Do Some Sleuthing
It’s always best to email a person than the generic email@example.com email address. This assures that they’re in their personal email inbox and in the mindset of reading and answering the emails casually. In their business inbox, they’ll often look to separate themselves from the people on the other end to keep things professional – not good for potential collaborations.
First you’ll want to try and figure out who to contact – do they have an assistant, a publicist, a brand manager? These are the sorts of people to contact. Or maybe you can get straight to the celebrity? Sometimes that happens too! Once you’ve found out who, you’ll need to find out where. Sometimes it’s on the contact page of the celebrity’s website! Hooray! But sometimes you’ve got to hunt them down on LinkedIn or Google them, looking for a Twitter account. If you can’t find an email address, just connect with them on social media for now. Comment, reply, like, etc. a few of their posts over the next few weeks. Then send them a private message on the social network asking if they would mind sharing their email address because you’ve got a cool idea their fans will love.
4. The Email
There’s something about email “pitches” that can get slimy, market-y sounding… We don’t want that. So I suggest you write the email like you’re talking to a friend, not a celebrity. Go over it lots and lots to make sure it doesn’t sound icky.
Be brief. They’re busy people. If you can’t get to the point in under three paragraphs, you’re writing too much for that first email. Just give them enough to tease their interest and get them to write back asking more questions or saying YES YES YES!
Focus on showing them how it helps them. Are they showing something cool to their fans? Are they getting free art? Are you extending their brand and style beyond their clothing?
5. What is It that You’re Asking For?
Before you send the email, make sure you’ve answered that question for yourself. If the person on the other end can’t tell what you’re trying to get them to do, it’s going to be a flat-out no right away. Confused people don’t usually ask more questions. They’ll usually just say no.
So what could you ask for? A tweet with your website link isn’t your only option. My favorite way for artists to work with celebrities is more of a sponsorship. Let’s say it’s Marie Forleo again. She does weekly Q&A videos. Maybe her videos would look even better with your art hanging on the wall behind her? You could rent the art to her (for free of course) so she uses a different piece in each video during the next season of her show. All she has to do is include you in the credits or use your website link in her blog post and YouTube video descriptions of the show.
You can also offer to decorate someone’s next event (fancy cocktail parties always need great decor) or even live paint the event in exchange for the flight and accommodations. Or you could sponsor their holiday gift giving by offering a certain number of prints to send out to their family, friends, and career contacts.
If you want to go the “how could they say no?” route, it could just be that you simply want to send them some greeting cards with your images printed on them (and of course your copyright and website link on the back) and ask what address to send them to. This sort of method is more likely to make you look “small potatoes” instead of putting you on the same level as the celebrity and creating a collaborative experience, but it’s a great starting point if the collaborative mindset is terrifying to you.
The biggest thing to remember is that it has to benefit them in some way. They get requests all the time. And most of those requests are all about the asker. They can’t say yes to these unless it’s something that will be amazing for them too. So you really want to develop a give-and-receive relationship where you both are getting something out of the deal.
6. Send it Off
Try not to freak out. Just hit send and then go do something else.
7. Follow Up
If you don’t hear back in a week, follow up. It’s usually appropriate to send the initial email and then two followup emails, spread at least a week apart, before you should abandon the mission. Don’t pester them with an email every day. You would hate that as much as they do. It almost always backfires and results in you getting blocked from their inbox or in them sending you a nasty letter.
Don’t forget that if you do hear back and end up working out a cool arrangement with a celebrity, you still have to get it in writing. You’ll look more professional that way, you’ll avoid misunderstandings, and both of you will be sure to get what you want. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but write out a simple agreement stating exactly what you discussed. They may have a lawyer who does this for you, but if not you must do it. Must. Non-negotiable.
9. On the Site
Make sure your agreement also says that you can talk about the endorsement in a factual manner in your marketing, both online and offline. This will allow you to put on your website that Jon Stewart featured your art on his show, instant clout to those visiting your website for the first time.